SISTER FRANCES DOMINICA WRITES IN THE CHURCH TIMES…….”SUPPORT FOR THE ACCUSED”
Support for the accused – Church Times – Letters – August 28 2020
From Sister Frances Dominica ASSP
Sir, — Greater support from the Church for victims of abuse is to be welcomed (News, 21 August). How long will it take for the Church to recognise the need of support for those wrongly accused of abuse, with the consequent loss of career, home, income, and reputation?
President of FACT (Falsely Accused Carers, Teachers and other professionals)
All Saints Sisters of the Poor
PRIVATE EYE – CHURCH NEWS – “CORE BLIMEY”
FOLLOWING our report in Eye 1527 that there are currently 27 national “core groups” investigating safeguarding concerns about bishops and deans in the Church of England, the church’s lead bishop on safeguarding, Rt. Revd Jonathan Gibbs, quickly put out a correction.
There are in fact 30 such groups, three more having been created since the last count in mid-July. He added that “about three-quarters of current national cases are about senior clergy failing to act appropriately rather than a direct allegation of abuse.”
This isn’t as reassuring as he seems to think: it implies that seven or eight of the most senior figures in the Church of England are being investigated over allegations of first-order abuse.
Some of these may be retired, but as far as we know only two – former Archbishop George Carey and current Bishop of Lincoln Christopher Lowson – are currently barred from acting as bishops, and their cases don’t involve any “direct allegation of abuse”.
Lord Carlile QC said two weeks ago that the C of E’s core group system is “the most incompetent and unjust form of investigation I have ever seen.”
Carlile led the 2017 review of how the church mishandled claims against the late Bishop George Bell. He concluded that its George Bell core group had been “unmethodical, confused and unstructured”, with the membership and chair changing from meeting to meeting. The whole process was predicated on Bell’s guilt and resulted in “catastrophic damage” to his posthumous reputation. (The mistaken allegation that Bell was a paedophile was reported as fact in the Daily Telegraph by religious-affairs editor John Bingham – who was subsequently punished for his error by being appointed the C of E’s head of media.)
Carlile is among 65 lawyers, clerics and abuse survivors who signed a letter to the Charity Commission this month, asking it to challenge the C of E over “the continuing flow of cases of injustice”. The signatories accuse core groups of acting “in ways reminiscent of the Star Chamber, synonymous with the selective use of arbitrary unaccountable power”.
Last month, for example, a victim of John Smyth QC made a formal complaint against Archbishop Justin Welby for failing to act on information about his old friend’s violently abusive behaviour, and was duly told that an investigation would be held. But he now learns that Welby has already been the subject of a secret investigation into the claim in 2017 – in which the complainant was not even consulted. The new inquiry is nothing more than an internal review of that process – which could be tricky since no-one will say who conducted the investigation or what it discovered.
Ultimately, the judgement on whether Welby should be disciplined rests with the new Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who has himself been recently investigated by a core group; and the judgement on whether Archbishop Cottrell should be disciplined for his safeguarding failure rests with Archbishop Welby.
What could be fairer than that?
“POLICE ADVISED TO STILL AUTOMATICALLY BELIEVE ALLEGED ABUSE VICTIMS IN NEW GUIDELINES, DESPITE WARNINGS IN REVIEW OF ‘NICK THE FANTASIST’ CASE” – DAILY MAIL
Controversial instruction is contained in new College of Policing guidance
Comes despite warnings after disastrous inquiry into VIP sex abuse claims
Claims of fantasist Carl Beech were notoriously called ‘credible and true’
Police are still being advised to automatically believe alleged abuse victims in new guidelines despite warnings from a senior judge in his review of the ‘Nick the fantasist’ case.
The College of Policing guidance, which was published today, controversially tells detectives investigating claims of child abuse that ‘the intention is that victims are believed’.
Sir Richard Henriques, in his review of how police handled claims of VIP sex abuse from the fantasist Carl Beech, called for the instruction to be withdrawn because suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
Beech’s slurs were described as ‘credible and true’ by a senior officer, and went on to trash the reputations of esteemed public figures including D-Day hero Lord Bramall, former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, ex-Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath and former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.
The new guidance comes despite warnings from retired judge Sir Richard Henriques, in his review of how police handled claims of VIP sex abuse from the fantasist Carl Beech (pictured in a police interview from 2016)
Sir Richard criticised the decision to keep the guidance, telling The Times: ‘They’ve learnt nothing at all from Nick.
‘The whole basis of their explanation for believing Nick is that they were driven to believe by the protocol that was in existence.’
The guidance was produced by the College of Policing and senior officers in Operation Hydrant, which leads the investigation of historic abuse allegations.
It was today defended by Hydrant chief Simon Bailey, who insisted officers did not apply ‘blind belief’.
He said that victims were constantly told by their abusers they would never be believed, and they would never come to the police if they did not feel they would be listened to.
The new guidance also urges officers not to go ‘trawling’ for abuse victims but to use prior investigation to approach specific groups of possible victims or witnesses.
It also advises the, when releasing information about a suspect who has died, officers must ‘make it clear that there police are making no judgments about guilt’.
Wiltshire Police was criticised for holding a press conference outside the late former Prime Minister’s Edward Heath’s home in 2015 to announce they were investigating claims he was a paedophile, before urging other alleged victims to come forward.
The force later said that, if the politician had been alive, he would have been interviewed about seven disclosures under criminal caution.
Carl Beech – the fantasist and paedophile known by the pseudonym ‘Nick’ – was sentenced to eighteen years in prison in July 2019 to his false claims, including against Sir Edward.
Sir Richard criticised the decision to keep the guidance, saying: ‘They’ve learnt nothing at all from Nick’
Sir Richard’s report on Scotland Yard’s investigation, Operation Midland, advised that ‘the instruction to believe a victim’s account should cease’.
He said people who make allegations to police should be called complainants, not victims, so not to imply guilt. The report, commissioned by the Met, was handed to senior commanders in 2016 but was finally published in full in October 2019.
It exposed the appalling failures of senior officers who believed Nick’s false allegations as they mounted a bungled £2.5 million investigation which ruined the lives of war hero Lord Bramall, Lord Brittan and Mr Proctor.
Police decided to automatically believe claims of sexual abuse in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, when it emerged that credible rape reports had been dismissed.
But the approach led to the Met notoriously describing as ‘credible and true’ the false allegations made by Beech, which were also backed in Parliament by the Labour MP Tom Watson.
The 51-year-old falsely alleged that between the ages of seven and 16 he had been collected by car from his various schools in the country and driven to London, where he and other young boys were raped, burned, stabbed and tortured.
He claimed the offences were committed in the Carlton Club or in the apartment block in Pimlico called Dolphin Square. Afterwards, Nick would be returned by car to his home, where he lived alone with his mother.
He had originally made allegations to Wiltshire Police, who had interviewed him but concluded he lacked credibility.
His mother was also questioned and told them she had no knowledge of any unauthorised absence from school and had never seen any bloodstained underwear or similar sign of sexual abuse.
Yet Met officers listening to his claims were not given his earlier interviews so missed the large number of inconsistencies.
Beech’s slurs were notoriously called ‘credible and true’ during a press conference outside New Scotland Yard
Sir Richard said they then continued investigating his claims ‘in a disordered and chaotic manner and littered with mistakes’.
In his new book, From Crime To Crime, which was serialised in the Daily Mail, the former judge wrote: ‘They failed to ask Nick for his computers or mobile phone.
‘They ignored the fact that his medical records disclosed no injury consistent with his allegations in his personal online blog that his feet were stabbed and burned, poppies pinned to his bare chest and numerous bones broken.
‘They had no regard to the inherent improbability of men of the highest standing and impeccable character having behaved in the manner alleged.’
Moving on the notorious ‘credible and true’ press conference, he continued: ‘Instead the police made a public appeal for information, with a senior officer, Detective Superintendent Kenny McDonald, standing outside New Scotland Yard and telling a press conference that they believed Nick’s allegations to be both ‘credible and true’.
‘The words should never have been uttered, and the officer himself later admitted they were inappropriate, saying he selected the wrong words in the heat of an interview.
‘But there was no correction for many months, by which time, as we will see below, two completely bogus potential witnesses had come forward with more lies purporting to support ‘Nick’.’
“Looking back” will feature reprints of articles that Jeff previously wrote while a columnist at The Westchester Guardian, which encompass topics that are applicable here in CA as well as across the country and not simply applicable to NY.
by Jeffrey Deskovic
It is with good reason that criminal defendant is to be considered innocent until proven guilty. It is only through this approach that the chances for justice to occur are maximized.
Too often, however, the media disregards this principle, and instead produces articles which presume guilt, and are one-sided; statements that are uttered by the prosecution and the police are taken as gospel. And, the articles that are written are slanted, written as though the media is taking on a pro-prosecution advocacy role, as though they know all that there is to know about a case, rather than remaining neutral, and cautious, scrutinizing, and looking for alternative explanations for evidence while writing a balanced story. This type of news coverage is by no means harmless.
It is often experienced by the accused as an out-of-control feeling in which there is the experience that the entire world is against them. In this environment the accused must defend himself against serious charges which often carry lengthy prison sentences, while, at the same time, being aware of the chilling reality that what is going on outside of the courtroom often affects what is going on inside of it.
For example, a judge can be influenced and caused to make rulings of law which make it likely that a guilty verdict will result at trial. Potential jurors can hear about a case prior to being selected with the result that they are swayed before hearing evidence, despite denying hearing about it during the selection process.
As a trial progresses, it is a fiction to believe that jurors always obey a judge’s instructions that they should not read about the case. Sometimes a prosecutor could feel pressure from the environment and not extend a plea bargain offer which he or she feels would serve the ends of justice; or press for a lengthier sentence at a sentencing hearing. A judge could wind up imposing a lengthier sentence because of the media coverage.
Although a prosecutor could him, or herself, get swept up by the environment, as I mentioned above, at other times they are the author and architect of such coverage, when they are using cases for political purposes. One of the better-known examples of this was the case Duke Lacrosse Players case. In an article Justice Denied by Rachel Smolken, she wrote: “As Reade Seligmann choked back tears on the witness stand, the 21- year-old Duke University lacrosse player dubbed ‘Flustered’ by teammates was poised, compelling and clearly hurting. He told of a world turned ‘upside down’ and of experiencing ‘as lonely of a feeling as you can ever imagine’ after he was indicted for allegedly raping a stripper at a team party on March 13, 2006. He described the stinging slights from former friends, the terrifying death threats–and the inescapable media horde.” All told, somewhere between one to three hundred guilt presumption-oriented media pieces were either written or aired.
Taken from Wikipedia and the Durham In Wonderland Blog written by KC Johnson, the facts of the case are as follows: “In March 2006 Crystal Gail Mangum, an African American stripper and escort falsely accused three white members of Duke University’s lacrosse team- Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans, of raping her at a party held at the house of two of the teams captains in Durham, North Carolina on March 13, 2006. On April 11, 2007, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper dropped all charges and declared the three players innocent. Cooper stated that the charged players were victims of a ‘tragic rush to accuse.’ District Attorney Mike Nifong assumed personal control of an ongoing—and scarcely begun—police investigation fundamentally transformed the case. Appointed to the office in 2005 despite a pattern of emotionally unstable behavior during his half-decade sojourn in Traffic Court, Nifong appeared destined for defeat in the upcoming Democratic primary. By late February, Nifong’s fundraising had dried up and he resorted to personal loans to his campaign kept his candidacy afloat. Under personal, financial, and political pressure—and perhaps even, at first, believing that a crime occurred—Nifong seized the opportunity to exploit the case. He quickly secured a court order demanding that the players submit DNA samples and photos. That motion was fraudulent in that: Nifong claimed that the players called each other by first-name aliases and uniform numbers at the party; no evidence existed for either claim; Nifong withheld from the court that the accuser had failed to identify any suspects in an official photo lineup; Nifong falsely promised the court that negative DNA tests would ‘immediately rule out any innocent persons.’ Confident that DNA would ‘show conclusive evidence as to who the suspect(s) are in the alleged violent attack upon this victim,’ the D.A. launched a publicity barrage that seemed unrelated to any legitimate law enforcement purpose but did much to boost his name recognition in the run-up to the primary.
Though Section 3.8 (f) of the North Carolina Code of Professional Responsibility requires prosecutors to ‘refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused,’ Nifong gave dozens of interviews. He termed the players ‘hooligans’ whose ‘daddies’ would buy them expensive lawyers. He made a host of statements not backed by items in police files. He made a public statement to the effect that ‘One would wonder why one needs an attorney if one was not charged and had not done anything wrong.’ And, in a blatant bid for the African American vote, he deliberately exaggerated the racial element of the alleged attack. As he basked in the media spotlight, Nifong learned that contrary to his assurances, the DNA results would be negative. But he refused to discard the case for lack of evidence, and instead instructed police to conduct another lineup. Only this time, he would ensure that the accuser identified someone. In violation of Durham policies, the lineup would be confined to suspects—now all 46 white players on the team. In further violation of procedures, the accuser would be told that the lineup contained no fillers. And overriding yet another procedure, the lead investigator for the case would oversee the array. Duke Law professor James Coleman, former chief counsel to the House Ethics Committee, later wrote that these Nifong mandated procedural irregularities ‘strongly suggested that the purpose of the identification process was to give the alleged victim an opportunity to pick three members of the lacrosse team who could be charged. Any three students would do; there could be no wrong choice.’
In the lineup, Mangum identified the three suspects, with varying degrees of certainty. Her performance gave no indication that she was a reliable eyewitness. After having not recognized him at all on March 21, she now claimed that Evans attacked her, and that he had a mustache—even though he didn’t have one. She claimed to be 100% certain that Seligmann attacked her—even though three weeks earlier, she said she was only 70% sure that Seligmann even attended the party. Indeed, the only player that the accuser twice identified as attending the party with 100% certainty wasn’t even in Durham that night.
Nifong ignored this litany of transparent inconsistencies. With knowledge that the DNA tests were negative and surely understanding that his procedurally dubious identification would not survive close scrutiny, Nifong fanned the flames of public indignation. In this critical period, Nifong had three indispensable allies: The media—first the N&O, and, after March 27, the national networks and especially the Times—uncritically accepted his version of events, framing the story as a morality tale of white, rich, athletic excess, exploiting a poor, black, demure mother of two; Among what New York’s Kurt Andersen has termed the Duke faculty’s ‘loopy left,’ the players were guilty until proven innocent. In late March, Houston Baker, a professor of English and Afro-American Studies, issued a public letter denouncing the ‘abhorrent sexual assault, verbal racial violence, and drunken white male privilege loosed amongst us’ and demanding the ‘immediate dismissals’ of ‘the team itself and its players.’ A week later, on April 6, 88 members of Duke’s arts and sciences faculty signed a public statement saying ‘thank you’ to campus demonstrators who had, among other things, carried a banner reading ‘CASTRATE’ outside the lacrosse players’ rented house, distributed a ‘wanted’ poster of the lacrosse players, and publicly branded the players ‘rapists’, and placed an ad in a newspaper thanking protesters ‘for not waiting and for making yourselves heard.’
By contrast, no Duke professor publicly criticized Nifong’s conduct until months later. Brodhead failed to resist his faculty’s assault on due process. Moreover, whether intended or not, his actions fortified a public image of guilt. On March 25, in an unprecedented move, the president canceled (at the last minute) the lacrosse team’s game against Georgetown, citing underage drinking at the party. Then, after the April 5 release of the McFadyen email, Brodhead demanded Lacrosse Coach Mike Pressler’s resignation, canceled the lacrosse season, and issued a statement anchored by a lament on the evils of rape—at a time when the players were firmly denying any sexual contact, much less rape. These moves enjoyed enthusiastic support from Board of Trustees chairman Robert Steel.”
Rachel Smolken wrote that CNN’s “Nancy Grace particularly distinguished herself, in a negative sense, with her mean-spirited comments about the athletes. Every piece of defense evidence that established innocence, ‘she spun as further evidence of guilt,’ Taylor says. ‘Or as, That just goes to show you how defense lawyers lie.’” On another occasion, referring to whether any Duke Lacrosse games would be missed, she made an on-air statement that “I’m so glad they didn’t miss a lacrosse game over a little thing like gang rape!”
As KC Johnson writes in Durham In Wonderland, “Often prosecutorial misconduct becomes intertwined with the slanted media coverage. On December of 2007 the North Carolina bar filed ethics charges against Nifong over his conduct in the case, accusing him of making public statements that were prejudicial to the administration of justice and of engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. The 17-page document accuses Nifong of violating four rules of professional conduct, listing more than 100 examples of statements he made to the media. On January 24, 2007, The North Carolina State Bar filed a second round of ethics charges against Nifong for a systematic abuse of prosecutorial discretion that was prejudicial to the administration of justice when he withheld DNA evidence to mislead the court. In a five-day proceeding in late June, the Disciplinary Hearings Commission of the State Bar found him guilty on 27 of 32 counts of ethical improprieties. He was disbarred and forced to resign as DA. In late August, Judge Smith found him guilty of criminal contempt for lying to the court about his conversations with Meehan; Nifong was sentenced to a day in jail. And, in early 2008, he declared bankruptcy to avoid a civil suit filed by the falsely accused students against him, the city of Durham, and Meehan.
On April 11, 2007, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced the results of his office’s investigation. Not only would all charges be dropped, but the three players were declared “innocent” victims of a “rogue prosecutor.”
As I stated above, slanted, prejudicial, and guilt-presuming articles are not harmless. Instead, they set the environment in which, and the stage on which, a case is tried. The turning of community sentiment against the defendant sets a terrible context through which a case proceeds through the process. What goes on outside of the courtroom is as much a factor in determining how a case turns out as what goes on inside of the courtroom.
I can personally attest to the frightening feeling of being an innocent defendant in a guilt-presumptive media environment such as I described above. During the time period in which I was going to trial, all of the news media coverage, save for one story, was slanted against me.
In the Duke Lacrosse Case, the prosecutor both started, and kept, the media witch hunt going for his own political purposes. He wanted to generate free advertisement and get elected. The media went along for the ride by not simply reporting facts and remaining neutral; instead, in effect, becoming advocates in an environment in which the presumption of innocence went out the window.
Unbelievable as it may seem, in a variety of ways, the Duke Players were lucky. Firstly, their parents were wealthy thus enabling them to hire quality attorneys. Secondly, it is almost unheard of for an Attorney General, as in their case, to intervene in a case and then dismiss the charges. Thirdly, the players were never wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. Fourthly, the Attorney General did not simply dismiss the charges, but he declared them to be “innocent”.
In the usual scenario, poor defendants, relying on public defenders, would have been found guilty; would have remained publicly excoriated; and would have been sent to prison to serve lengthy prison terms where they would never have been heard from again, unless a miracle occurred and they somehow were able to obtain quality representation and ultimately prove their innocence.
Understanding what went wrong in an individual case is only part of what needs to occur. Coming up with a way forward which would prevent its reoccurrence is an important second step. In the article Justice Delayed, Smolkin asked what the media should learn from the Duke case. Stuart Taylor, a columnist who is also an attorney, says “Read the damn motions.”He goes on to say, “If you’re covering a case, don’t just wait for somebody to call a press conference. Read the documents.” He advises reporters to look beyond the rhetoric. “We should never take a prosecutor’s word as fact.” Conversely, don’t disregard defense assertions as necessarily false.
Taylor goes on to say, “Yes, many defense lawyers will say almost anything to get their clients off most of the time, but don’t just ignore what they say, look at what they’re telling you. And do they have the evidence to back it up?”
Defense attorney Jim Cooney adds,
“The national media seems to believe balance requires them to report anything someone says, whether it’s true or not.” The fact-checking aspect of reporting, “he says, “seems to have fallen by the wayside.”
Later in that same article Smolkin quotes Ruth Sheehan, who wrote numerous guilt-presuming articles about the Duke players, saying, “I will approach cases in a different manner now. I will be much more cautious. I had a visceral reaction to that case as it was being described by the prosecutor.” Therefore, the media should try not to have an emotional reaction to a case by viewing it through the prism of their own experience.
In my opinion, these suggestions are good. However, I would add that the media should remember that there is a reason that defendants are presumed innocent, and this needs to be given more than just lip service. I also believe that although oftentimes defense attorneys can make things difficult by their silence, they can get beyond this silence by paying attention to the cross-examinations that the lawyers are doing and what points they are making through it, as well as opening statements and closing arguments.
I also think that it is important that writers remain neutral and do not turn into advocates when they write. There is a difference between writing a story on a case when the evidence is in as opposed to covering ongoing court proceedings. Reporters should not be above writing a correction or an apology if it is needed, and such apology or correction should be given the same prominence as the original story, not hidden in the back section of the newspaper.
“Jeffrey Deskovic, JD, MA, is an internationally recognized wrongful conviction expert and founder of The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice, which has freed 7 wrongfully convicted people and helped pass 3 laws aimed at preventing wrongful conviction. Jeff is an advisory board member of It Could Happen To You, which has chapters in CA, NY, and PA. He serves on the Global Advisory Council for Restorative Justice International, and is a sometimes co-host and co-producer of the show, “360 Degrees of Success.” Jeff was exonerated after 16 years in prison-from age 17-32- before DNA exonerated him and identified the actual perpetrator. A short documentary about his life is entitled “Conviction”, and there episode 1 of his story in Virtual Reality is called, “Once Upon A Time In Peekskill“. Jeff has a Masters Degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, with his thesis written on wrongful conviction causes and reforms needed to address them, and a law degree from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University.
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TO ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS: APOLOGISE. RESTORE THE NAME OF GEORGE BELL HOUSE. OR RESIGN
LETTER SUBMISSION – AUGUST 29 2020
Following this week’s Private Eye article and Church Times letter, we the undersigned again call upon / renew the call for Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner to consider their positions.
The evidence against Bishop George Bell has been gathered and thoroughly examined. Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden have declared the allegations are unfounded and there is no case to answer . It follows, therefore, that no “significant cloud remains” hangs over Bishop Bell’s head – it hangs elsewhere.
Bishop Bell’s name has now been fully vindicated, so there is no good reason why an apology should not be forthcoming and the name of George Bell House restored.
But Archbishop Justin Welby and Bishop Martin Warner continue to perpetuate this injustice against the wartime Bishop of Chichester by wilfully and arrogantly refusing to admit they were wrong. There is no willingness on their part to right that wrong. They display no humility in acknowledging that wrong. They have no intention to lift that “significant cloud”.
As Stephen Parsons says in ‘Surviving Church’: “Incompetence whether caused by ignorance, conceit or malevolence, is a particularly important matter when the individual refuses to admit to it and own up to it”.
After Archbishop Welby’s comment last year: “It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet” – a few of us did not ignore or sweep under the carpet those allegations against Bishop Bell. We fully investigated the clear likelihood of ‘mistaken identity’ – especially after the IICSA brought to light the “bonfire” of John Treadgold Dean of Chichester. Our findings are one reason why we are so critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – especially relating to excising the memory of Bishop Bell in Chichester].
Bishop Bell’s niece Barbara Whitley, the only surviving relative and in her 90’s, and the Rev Peter Mullen and Andrew Morse have already called for resignation.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, now call for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, unless an immediate and full public apology is forthcoming regarding Bishop Bell and the name of George Bell House in Chichester is restored.
ATKINS, Revd. Forrest William
CHARMLEY, Professor John
DONALD, Revd. Steve
GOMES, Dr. Jules
INESON, Revd. Matthew
LINSLEY, Alice C.
MORGAN, Dr. Gerald
MULLEN, Revd. Dr. Peter
RAVEN, Revd. Canon Charles
ROBINSON, Dr. Steven
SYKES, Rt. Revd. Nicholas J.G. – Suffragan Bishop
SYMONDS, Richard W.
VIRTUE, David W. DD
“We are thoroughly convinced that charges of antisemitism are being brought against individuals – usually, but not always people on the left – in order to stifle and silence critical views about the actions of the state of Israel in the Middle East and Palestine in particular. It is pretty frightening and unfortunately many decent people who would ordinarily deplore the denial of free speech simply do not want to believe what is happening or find it too far-fetched to take seriously.
“Below is a link to my recent blog on the subject – it contains the original Notice of Investigation that I received on 27 June together with the response I would have offered had I believed that the Party would have taken it seriously and/or had I believed that there would have been sufficient support from those who have influence in Labour locally”
“TO RUN AND HIDE OR STAND UP AND BE CANCELLED? THAT IS THE QUESTION, NOW THAT LABOUR’S ‘WITCH-TRIALS’ ARE UNDERWAY” – ‘ONLY ONE WAY LEFT’ – KAREN SUDAN
I am not alone. My story is just one among many stories. But what happened to me is typical of what is happening to dozens, if not hundreds, of long-standing Party members up and down the country. It is a witch hunt. It is targeting good socialists, many of whom have made a huge contribution to the Labour Party and the Socialist movement over many years. It’s aim is to transform the Party from a broad church that welcomes people who hold different views, but who share a desire for a better world, to narrow sect whose main aim is to maintain the top-down organisation that evolved during the Blair years and within which many of them have vested political careers. Those who supported Corbyn’s leadership, including Corbyn himself, were a threat to that status quo. We must be silenced, and if we cannot be silenced then we must be purged.
The purge of Labour members has been called a witch hunt. The Salem witch trials are often quoted as a cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, extremism, false accusations and disregard of due process. An accuser would would enter a complaint of witchcraft with the magistrate. Spectral evidence – a dream, visitation or mere belief that witchcraft had been practiced – would be presented to the magistrate. The accused – usually a poor misunderstood individual perceived as an outsider in some way – would then be arrested, interrogated and pressed to confess. A guilty plea, expressed with remorse, could save your life. To plead not guilty would be taken as proof positive of guilt and then when you were found guilty you would be certain to be hanged. One of those accused, Giles Corey, an 81 year old farmer from Salem Fields, refused to submit himself to the process. He declined to enter a plea. In order to persuade him to comply, stones were placed on top of him until he couldn’t breathe. He died without entering a plea. Good for him.
I know from others’ experience, and the Leaked Report has confirmed, that Labour’s complaints systems are not fit for purpose. Like the justice systems in fifteenth century America, they are open to abuse. Individuals are placed ‘under investigation’ and invited to defend themselves against accusations based on the flimsiest of ‘evidence’ before officials who have already decided our guilt. Investigations that should never have been initiated – most of the ‘evidence’ cited would not stand up in any court of law and you would be treated more fairly in any half decent workplace – are left to hang indefinitely while ordinary decent Party members are left unsupported to deal with the stress. The letter that accompanies the Notice of Investigation acknowledges the stress that will be caused and includes the Samaritans’ phone number. The letter itself is not signed off by an individual officer. There is no named individual who can be contacted about the investigation.
Being under investigation and/or suspended restricts members’ participation in Party activity, including prohibiting them from standing for public office. It is a method increasingly used by a certain section of the Party establishment to ensure that only individuals who meet their approval make it on to a ballot. It is the way they get rid of you when all else fails – it is what happens to councillors and MPs who have a good record and have been, or are likely to be selected by ward or CLP members, but whose face – or politics – doesn’t fit with those who believe that they, and they alone, are born to rule. Those under investigation are prohibited, under threat of suspension and/or expulsion, from talking about it, This not only silences – cancels – the individual concerned, it allows malign gossip and lies to spread unchecked. Thus are the Labour Party’s complaints systems being used to purge and silence people like me.
Like the elderly Salem farmer, I chose not to submit myself to the judgement of a corrupt and broken system. I chose instead to resign. My resignation, along with that of my son – also a councillor – who has been ‘under investigation’ for over eighteen months, resulted in Labour losing control of a Crawley Borough Council. Two Brighton councillors were placed under investigation shortly after me. They too chose to resign with the result that Labour lost control of that council too. Our resignations have been branded as a ‘betrayal’ of the Party. It is those long-standing members, people who have dedicated many years and sacrificed much for the Labour movement, who have been betrayed. So long as the Labour Party – and by the Labour Party, I mean members, not paid officials – are prepared to stand by in silence while decent people are purged from its ranks, it will not be fit to govern at any level.
It has been suggested that I was wrong to resign, that I should have stayed in the Party to ‘clear my name’. This very suggestion says it all. It is as though I have already been condemned. Like those poor men and women in fifteenth century Salem, it seems the very uttering of a complaint is enough for the Labour Party to hang you. Had due process – even back then – been applied to the Salem witches, they would never have been accused in the first place. Had the Labour Party’s complaints systems been fit for purpose and not open to abuse by those with malign intent, hundreds of members would have been spared an ordeal that is widely understood to have resulted in suicide by at least one.
Members are entitled to know what is going on in their Party. Some may want to know. They can then make up their own minds about it. Below, for anyone interested, is a link to the Notice of Investigation that I received on 27 June. Also the response I might have offered had I trusted that it would be received in good faith by the Party.
Karen Sudan, August 2020
Hypothetical Response to Notice of Investigation concerning my alleged antisemitism
My first alleged transgression (Item 3 in the Notice of Investigation) This was committed three years ago in June 2017 when I blocked ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’ from following me on Twitter.
My husband Mark and I received an alert – at exactly the same time – that we were being followed by ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’. We had never heard of it, and we both thought it rather strange – organisations don’t usually select who they follow; it is usually the other way about.
We checked them out, as is our normal practice for would-be followers. Although we do not remember the detail of what we saw, and it is too long ago to go back to, we both remember disliking what we saw.
We both blocked ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’ and I commented in a tweet of my own:
“I oppose all kinds of racism, but having looked at their tweets and
followers, I just blocked Labour Against Antisemitism.”
If the Labour Party believes it can arbitrarily decide to deny members the right to exercise freedom of preference over who we allow to follow us or not, or to inform our existing followers of those choices and the reasons for them, it is profoundly disturbing. It is yet more disturbing in the light of what has been said about one of the two individuals who ran ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’:
“Individuals such as Euan Philipps, LAAS spokesperson were rude in
their tone, and had submitted a number of spurious complaints. The
Labour Party received a number of complaints from 2017 onwards about their abusive conduct online, including allegations of ‘dog piling’
individuals on Twitter”
“In 2018-19 the Labour Party received a number of complaints alleging
abusive behaviour by Phillips, including racism, Islamophobia,
homophobia and antisemitism both online and in person.”
The Work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in Relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019 (‘The Leaked Report’)
Nevertheless, it was apparently wrong of me to block them and comment as I did. Not only this, it is apparently evidence of antisemitism. I have looked at Labour Against Antisemitism again today. I do not regret blocking them and they remain blocked.
My second alleged transgression (Item 2 in the Notice of Investigation)
This was committed two years ago in August 2018
I retweeted a comment by someone whose friend had had ‘No Blacs here’ (sic) painted on her window. The comment read:
“My friend moved into a predominantly white area in Manchester over
the weekend and look what they did to her window, I’m disgusted. Racism is so real and it’s happening everywhere.”
“Where is the MSM [Main Stream Media – Ed] outcry over this?! Oh yes, I forgot – too busy making up and/or exaggerating stories about antisemitism in the Labour Party!”
I believed then – and still believe now – that the media focus has been
disproportionate when it comes to reporting and condemning antisemitism over other forms of racism. There is evidence to support this view.
For example, as presented by Greg Philo, in his book Bad News for Labour: Antisemitism, the Party and Public Belief.
Many people share the opinion that Labour’s antisemitism problem has been exaggerated. Indeed, this was the Labour Party’s official position at the time. Some may disagree of course, but it cannot be said to be antisemitic to hold the opinion that the media have exaggerated the phenomenon.
At the same time that there was an intense media focus on ‘Labour’s
antisemitism problem’, there has been, I believe, a failure to report or comment on racist incidents generally, such as the one (above) reported on Twitter and others involving violent attacks. I represent people in Crawley who have suffered racist abuse and have been on the receiving end myself, as have members of my family.
Racism of all kinds is a scourge on British society, and it has not been addressed as it should have. I believe that, at best, the disproportionate media focus, both within and outside the Labour Party has done nothing to help the victims of racism. At worst, it has
done the opposite. People I represent from Black and Minority Ethnic
backgrounds once had trust in Labour as an anti-racist Party. Many feel that by – as they see it – over-stating an antisemitism problem within the Labour Party, while seeming to turn a blind eye to the racism they experience on a daily basis,
Labour has betrayed that trust.
I have not encountered antisemitism within the local party, but have frequently come across other forms of racism:
For example, on coming home from a picnic with Party members, one of my granddaughters asked me to explain what a Party member had meant by the term ‘half caste’. The term was obviously part of the everyday language used by the woman who said it and went unremarked.
My (black) husband has been likened to a ‘warrior chief’ asserting his territory through ‘chest beating’. His (white) step-son has been referred to as ‘the Lone Ranger’ when he has supported my husband with the implication that my husband is ‘Tonto’. These racist tropes go unremarked and, if challenged, only provoke closing of ranks and further attacks.
These are my thoughts about racism, antisemitism, the MSM and the
Labour Party. I do not regret the retweet or the comment I made.
Those of us who believe that there has been a disproportionate amount of attention paid to antisemitism may also believe that this needs explaining.
I believe that the explanation for this is that antisemitism has been weaponised to attack those who supported Jeremy Corbyn – who, it should be remembered was, for the period covered, the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party.
Many of those people who supported Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership have
also been vocal in their support for the Palestinian people in their struggle against continued oppression by the state of Israel. These people, who come form a range of backgrounds, and have Jewish people among them, have I believe, been the subject of a witch hunt by a section of the Party establishment.
Ironically, revisiting ‘Labour Against Antisemitism’ today (see above) and witnessing their celebration and joy at recent ‘success’ in purging the Party of committed and respected long-standing members – whose membership long predates Jeremy Corbyn, but whose antisemitic views only became a concern during the Corbyn years – only serves to endorse this view.
My third transgression (Item 1 in the Notice of Investigation)
This was a straightforward retweeting of a link to an article by Sai Englert, a well-respected Jewish academic, which argued that Labour should reject the ‘ten pledges’ because criticism of Israel was not necessarily – or even usually – related to antisemitism.
I have re-read the article today and I still agree with its main argument. The article did not suggest (as was implied) that the Jewish holocaust had been exaggerated and did not belittle it. The holocaust was a crime against humanity and there simply is no justification for it.
What the (state of) Israel is doing to the people of Palestine (themselves Semitic peoples) is also a crime against humanity. Many have said that they believe it to be worse than apartheid South Africa. Indeed, it has been condemned by some who actually lived under that regime including Nelson Mandela himself.
Many have likened it to the way colonialists all but wiped out the Native Americans and Native Australians in past centuries. There can be no justification for the treatment of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel.
That was my position in January this year and it remains my position
today. This is not an antisemitic viewpoint and I do not regret sharing the article.
More than one Constituency Labour Party has posted links to this
article on their website and I do not apologise for sharing it myself. Indeed, I would recommend a reading/re-reading of it in the light of events of recent weeks.
Finally, there has sometimes been an attempt to argue that the very act of speaking out – as I have – against atrocities committed by the state of Israel, is in itself antisemitic – as though somehow criticism of the actions of the state of Israel stems from an inherent ‘hatred of Jews’.
Hatred of Jews has been included in far-right rhetoric against minorities for many years. It does not usually express itself in criticism of Israel or support for the Palestinian people.
If anything, those on the far right usually express even more hatred for Arabs and Muslims than for they do for Jews.
For the record, I have been highly critical of Saudi Arabia’s decimating of Yemen – an area of the Middle East in which I spent some of my formative years. I have also been vocal in my criticism of the Indian Government for its actions in Kashmir. I have not had racism imputed as my motive for these criticisms.
Throughout my life, I have – along with thousands of others on the Left – campaigned in support of oppressed people both abroad and here in the UK. It would be rather out of keeping with my record were I not to feel as passionately as I do in support of the Palestinian people. Many people feel as I do but have hesitated to speak out for fear of being attacked for it. I have felt that fear myself, but whenever I am tempted to give in to it, I think about a little girl I once knew:
She was seven, and I will call her Amalia. I knew her when I worked in a school in North East London. Part of my role was to monitor racist incidents, making sure that they were recorded and reported and dealt with appropriately.
One morning, I was called urgently to Year 3 to deal with a racist incident. When I got there, I found Amalia outside her classroom sobbing inconsolably. She had been sent from the lesson – an RE lesson in which the class had been learning about Judaism – because she was the perpetrator of the incident.
A teaching assistant, Bruhriah (not her real name) was with her. Amalia kept repeating over and over through her sobs, that she was sorry and that she knew she ‘shouldn’t have said it’. I could see that she really was sorry, but it took me a long while to get her to tell me what it was she had said.
‘I said I hate Jews’ she told me once she could get the words out.
Without prompting she told me ‘I know why I said it.’ I asked her why and she told me ‘Because of what happened in my country.’ She told me that she had seen her Grandma shot in the back, along with an uncle while they had been running away from soldiers.
‘Where is your country?’ I asked Amalia. ‘Palestine.’
She said. They had been running away from Israeli soldiers.
Amalia was right. It was wrong to say that she hated Jews. She understood that it was an antisemitic remark – not all Jews could be held responsible for killing members of her family. Many Jewish people – including Bruhriah – hate what the state of Israel is doing to the people of Palestine as much, and more than I do.
What the state of Israel is doing to Amalia’s people is wrong. I will never apologise for speaking out about it and I will continue to support the Palestinian people in their struggle against oppression in any way I can. I am not antisemitic. I am a socialist and that is what socialists do.
Karen Sudan, August 2020
“Bend the arc of history towards justice…Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly”
Martin Luther King + Library of the UK Supreme Court of Justice
“The first duty of man is the seeking after and the investigation of truth” – Cicero
“Law is order, and good law is good order” – Aristotle
“He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it” – Plato
“Justice is truth in action” – Disraeli
‘DRESDEN – BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY A. ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
The Daily Telegraph
February 13th, 2020
The article by Sinclair McKay (February 13th) on the 1945 bombing of Dresden was timely and welcome. What a pity, though, that he did not mention the most prominent wartime challenge to the British policy of Obliteration Bombing, which came from Bishop George Bell of Chichester.
In 1944, when Hamburg had been devastated the previous year and Dresden was still to suffer, Bishop Bell, a fervent anti-Nazi, questioned in the House of Lords the morality of such bombing of targets which were not primarily military. Few of his fellow bishops supported him, and he earned himself both widespread abuse but also agreement. The bravery of his stand is undeniable.
Recently, there have been shameful (and now discredited) attempts in Bell’s diocese to tarnish his reputation. Since an apology for this behaviour is still not forthcoming, it is more than ever necessary that we are reminded of George Bell’s courage and integrity, both in wartime and beyond it.