Tag Archives: Bishop George Bell of Chichester

PETER HITCHENS ON LIBERTY, JUSTICE AND THE DECLINE OF THE JURY – AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE

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https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2020/04/i-used-to-think-juries-were-a-safeguard-for-liberty-and-justice-now-i-am-not-so-sure.html

Am I going to have to fall out of love with juries? For decades I have defended these curious committees, which can ruin a man’s life in an afternoon. It has been a romance as much as it has been a reasoned position. Most people get their best lesson in jury trials from the 1957 movie Twelve Angry Men. In that version, a single determined juror, played by Henry Fonda, gradually wins the rest of the panel round to an acquittal, at great cost in emotion and patience. But what really won my heart was Thomas Macaulay’s account of the Trial of the Seven Bishops, in which a London jury defied the wishes of the would-be autocrat King James II in 1688. It was an astonishing event, a monarch’s authority challenged by—of all unlikely things—a collection of Anglican prelates. Their acquittal, perhaps more than anything else, led to James’s fall a few months later. It was the beginning of true constitutional monarchy in Europe, the genesis of the English Bill of Rights and the forerunner of the very similar American document of the same name. It could not have happened without a jury.  

For without a jury, any trial is simply a process by which the state reassures itself that it has got the right man. A group of state employees, none of them especially distinguished, are asked to confirm the views of other state employees. With a jury, the government cannot know the outcome and must prove its case. And so the faint, phantasmal ideal of the presumption of innocence takes on actual flesh and bones and stands in the path of power. Juries grew up in England almost entirely by happy accident, and no government would nowadays willingly create them where they do not already operate. A brief fashion for them in 19th-century Europe was swiftly stamped out by governments that understood all too well how much they limited their power. I believe the last true Continental juries, sitting in the absence of a judge, were abolished in France in 1940 by the German occupation authorities. People in Anglosphere countries, unaware that true independent juries rarely exist outside the English-speaking world, have no idea what a precious possession they are. 

I remember actually pounding the arm of my chair with delight as I read Macaulay’s account of the response of the bishops’ attorney, Francis Pemberton, when threatened by the chief Crown prosecutor, the solicitor general: “Record what you will. I am not afraid of you, Mister Solicitor!” So this was England after all, and even the majesty of the Stuart Crown could not overawe the defense. This was wholly thanks to the fact that the trial took place before a jury—which duly acquitted the bishops of “seditious libel,” the ludicrous charge by which James had hoped to crush opposition to his plans to reverse the Reformation. Without a jury, the king would of course have won his case, and England would have gone down the road to absolutism (already followed in France, Prussia, Russia, and the Habsburg dominions) with incalculable consequences for the whole world. Instead we had what came to be called the Glorious (or Bloodless) Revolution.  

And my blood still runs faster when I recall this and other moments at which the mere existence of juries has made us all more free. Yet I also have terrible doubts. Is the independence of juries possible in the modern world, in which the English Bill of Rights is all but forgotten and a new dispensation reigns? All too often, I read reports of trials in my own country that fill me with doubt. I did my fair share of court reporting as an apprentice journalist many years ago, and I have a good understanding of how these things used to work and ought to work.

Something has changed. There is a worrying number of sex cases now coming before the courts in which clear forensic proof of guilt is often unobtainable. 

The alleged crimes themselves are repulsive, and the mere accusation is enough to nurture prejudice. The defendants have often been arrested in the scorching light of total publicity, in spectacular dawn raids totally unjustified by any immediate danger they present. Pre-trial media reporting has further undermined the presumption of innocence. In England there is still officially a strong rule against the media taking sides before the jury delivers its verdict. But this is not enforced as it once was. The prosecutions are frequently as emotional as they are unforensic, the opposite of the proper arrangement. Yet the defendants are often convicted even so (sometimes by majority verdicts, which in my view violate the whole jury principle). The state seems somehow to have turned the jury—often swayed by emotion—into its own weapon. And it is worse than the alternative. A wrongfully-convicted defendant, pronounced culpable by a jury of his peers, must feel a far deeper despair than one cast into prison by a mere panel of judges. 

I had been concerned about this for some time. I knew that, since the introduction of majority verdicts in 1966, and the abolition of the old property qualification in 1974, English juries had not been what they were. Majority verdicts effectively made impossible the stand by the Henry Fonda character in Twelve Angry Men. The judge would simply have accepted the guilty verdict of the majority. The property qualification—which required jurors to be householders—tended to ensure that they were older and more experienced. But it also meant they were mostly male, and mostly well-off, and it is easy to see why it was removed. The problem was that it was replaced by nothing at all. Nobody, it seemed, could devise an educational or age qualification that did not violate some principle of the new egalitarianism. This means that anyone on the voters’ roll may now be a juryperson, and your whole future could in theory be decided by a room full of 18-year-olds who have never worked, paid taxes, been abroad, broken a bone, or raised a child. I do not find this reassuring. 

In 1907, when the English Court of Criminal Appeal was first set up, there were warnings that it would undermine the authority of the jury, since it could overturn a guilty verdict (though not an acquittal). And it is easy to see why some defenders of juries were worried. A principle can be undermined from more than one direction. But as it happened, the danger to juries came from a different source—from the increasing egalitarianism of society itself, and the resulting politicization of so many trials. Judges became less elitist and more political, as did prosecutors. The sexual revolution created a whole new class of crimes, and created a whole new set of procedures to try them. It granted anonymity to accusers, a change that met with surprisingly weak opposition. 

I did not really understand the force of this until I found myself unexpectedly defending the long-dead Bishop George Bell against ancient charges of child sex abuse. Bishop Bell could not be tried because he was deceased. But the Church of England’s treatment of his case very much reflected the new arrangements. He was more or less presumed guilty. His unnamed accuser was designated a victim and a “survivor,” not an alleged victim, before any inquiry began. The procedure that adjudged him guilty, in private, did not follow the presumption of innocence and made no serious effort to discover if there was a defense (there was). I found to my shock that an inaccurate claim—that he would have been arrested if alive—persuaded many apparently fair-minded, educated, and intelligent people of his guilt, though an arrest is evidence of nothing at all. Thanks to some truly dedicated and determined work by many selfless people, and some very good legal work as well, the thing was more or less set right. But a grudging Church of England has yet to make full restitution. 

So when I saw the case in Australia against Cardinal George Pell, it was not just the similar name that aroused my interest. I knew from a recent visit to Sydney that Australia had undergone an anti-religious revolution. I knew very well how powerful allegations of child abuse had been in weakening the Church. My instincts were to believe that George Pell, who behaved like an innocent man, had been wrongly accused. But what if this was just bias? I sought to keep an open mind. I would presume the cardinal was innocent, but would not let my Christian sympathy close my mind to serious evidence against him. I had taken the same view in the Bell case. I resolved at the beginning never to be afraid of the truth. If the evidence against George Bell was convincing beyond reasonable doubt, then I would have to change my view of a man whose brave and selfless actions I had much admired. I would have to accept that the world was a bleaker, worse place than even I had feared. I knew well enough that there were pedophile priests. The same had to apply to Cardinal Pell. 

And then a strange silence fell over the trial. I know that there were valid legal reasons for this silence, but it still seems to me that some way should have been found for a case of such moment to be heard openly and reported openly, while it was going on. When Pell was convicted, I felt I had to accept the verdict because I was in no position to dispute it, and had not heard what the jury had heard. But the whole sky darkened at the news. If such a man was guilty of such a filthy thing, and a jury had agreed upon this after a fair trial, then the forces of goodness were in rapid and frightening retreat.   

And then, amid the dismal suppression of freedom and the economic lunacy now gripping the world, came a sudden shaft of light. The High Court of Australia overturned the verdict and freed Cardinal Pell. And then I read what they had said. It was startling and disturbing, not because there was any ambiguity in it, but because of something else. A court statement declared, 

The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

 The judges ruled: 

On the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents. 

This seems to me to be a very polite way of suggesting that the jury did not entertain that reasonable doubt. I may be very grateful that the High Court took this view, because it seems to me that justice was done when George Pell was freed. But will there always be such High Courts, and will most people be able to reach them? In this egalitarian world, in which a series of inglorious revolutions has wholly changed the nature of justice, I am not sure that the old English jury is much of a defense anymore. And I cannot begin to say how sad this makes me.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.

“CARDINAL PELL: NATURAL AND INALIENABLE RIGHTS” – ‘Philosophical Investigations’ – April 20 2020

 

“The legal cases of Cardinal George Pell and Bishop George Bell are very different, but there are parallels which cannot be ignored – such as the critical importance of Presumption of Innocence in the endless quest for justice and fairness”

~ Richard W. Symonds

 

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http://www.philosophical-investigations.org/2020/04/cardinal-pell-natural-and-inalienable.html

Monday, 20 April 2020

Cardinal Pell: Natural and Inalienable Rights

by Richard W. Symonds

The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, by GB_1984

The principle of the presumption of innocence is of extreme importance, and the case of Cardinal George Pell has implications for the respect for—and security of—this principle.That one is considered innocent until proven guilty is a vital pre-condition for our survival and well-being within a civilised society. Undermining such jurisprudence can lead to catastrophic miscarriages of justice which ultimately threaten our humanity—in fact, yours and mine.

The accused is not required to defend or prove their innocence—it is for the accuser to prove guilt—beyond reasonable doubt. It is one of the foundational legal principles—a bedrock of our civilisation: ‘The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies’. Or Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat in the ancient Latin.

Presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and an international human right embodied under Article 11 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A just law must be a fair law, which punishes the guilty, not the innocent. Presumption of innocence is an immunity against unjust accusations.

In the case of Cardinal George Pell, a disturbing and dislocating miscarriage of justice has been exposed within Australia’s justice system—and presumption of innocence was almost lethally compromised and undermined.

A basic history of events—a timelined chronology if you will—would help:

• July 16 1996 — Bishop George Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. A former choirboy later testifies that the bishop molested him and his friend—both aged 13—in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne that year, after Mass.
• March 26 2001 — Archbishop Pell becomes Archbishop of Sydney.
• October 21 2003 — Pope John Paul II makes Archbishop Pell a Cardinal.
• February 25 2014 — Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Pell as his Finance Minister — Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
• April 8 2014 — One of the choirboys dies aged 31, of a heroin overdose, without alleging the molestation by Pell, in fact telling his mother he had not been abused by Pell.
• August 5 2014 — Victoria police establish a task force to investigate how religious and other non-government organizations [NGO’s] deal with abuse accusations.
• June 18 2015 — The surviving choirboy gives his first statement to the police, claiming sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell.
• December 23 2015 — The Victoria Police task force appeals publicly for information relating to allegations of sexual abuse while Cardinal George Pell was Archbishop fo Melbourne.
• March 1 2016 — Cardinal Pell testifies by video link from Rome, to the Australian child abuse inquiry. Pell is critical on how the Church has dealt with paedophile priests in the past, but *denies he had been aware of the extent of the problem.
• October 19 2016 — Victoria police go to Rome to question Cardinal Pell, who hears details of the choirboy’s abuse allegations against him for the first time.
• June 29 2017 — Police charge Cardinal Pell with multiple counts of historical sexual abuse. This makes him the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged in the Church’s abuse crisis. Pell denies the accusations and takes leave of absence from the Vatican to return to Australia to defend himself.
• July 26 2017 — Cardinal Pell makes his first court appearance on charges that he sexually abused multiple children in Victoria decades earlier. Details of the allegations are not made public. Pell vows to fight the allegations.
• May 1 2018 — A Magistrate commits Cardinal Pell to stand trial. He pleads not guilty to all charges.
• May 2 2018 — A Judge separates the charges into two trials; the first dating to his tenure as Archbishop of Melbourne, and the other when he was a young priest in Ballarat during the 1970’s.
• December 11 2018 — The jury unanimously convicts Cardinal Pell on all charges in the Melbourne case.
• February 26 2019 — A suppression order forbidding publication of any details about the trial is lifted. Prosecutors abandon trial on the Ballarat charges.
• March 13 2019 — The judge sentences Cardinal Pell to six years in prison, on five sex abuse convictions, in which he must serve 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.
• August 21 2019 — Victoria Court of Appeal rules 2–1 to uphold the convictions, but there is ‘stinging dissent’ by that Court’s leading criminal law expert.
• The High Court, Australia’s top court, in an unusual procedural move, agrees to hear Cardinal Pell’s leave to appeal, and his actual substantive appeal, concurrently.
• April 7 2020 — All seven judges of the High Court of the Australian Court of Appeal quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. In a volte-face, they unanimously agree the appeal has succeeded, dismiss all convictions, and release Cardinal Pell immediately—after he spent 13 months in high-security prisons. 

In overturning the jury’s decision of December 2018, the seven High Court judges said the jury, ‘acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted’.There was ‘a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted, because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof’. The High Court referred to what it called ‘the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses’ at the 2018 trial, which suggested there was cause for doubt.

This case has attracted world-wide attention for good reason.

What lies at the heart of our justice system is Lord Sankey’s ‘golden thread’ which runs through criminal and common law: Guilt must be proved by the accuser’s prosecution beyond any reasonable doubt. This undoubtedly did not take place in before the High Court judges intervened this April 2020 to make just the injustice.

It is better many guilty go free rather than one innocent is wrongly convicted and jailed for a crime they did not commit.

The Cardinal is entitled to be presumed innocent because that is what the Presumption of Innocence is all about—innocent until proven guilty.

Beware the spirit of the age. Alan Ryan, a professor of politics at Princeton University, sounded the alert thirty-two years ago: ‘Natural and inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have fallen into disrepute, along with a faith in reason and reason’s dictates.’

 

COMMENTS

 

Keith said…
The essay focuses on the underlying legal principle of the ‘presumption of innocence’. Fair enough; that’s a just guiding rule; and my understanding is that the Australian legal system abides by that.

However, in looking down the chronology, as an impartial reader with no dog in the fight I see nothing that explicitly proves that the presumption of innocence was denied the defendant when the jury arrived at its verdict in December 2018.

Without categorical evidence to the contrary, I have to assume the empanelled jurors — a ‘jury of one’s peers’, as they say, with preemptory strikes by both sides — went into the trial and into their deliberations honoring the defendant’s presumed innocence.

Likewise regarding the presumption of innocence by the appeals court that apparently upheld the verdict, by a split decision, in August 2019.

I have no opinion whether the defendant was or was not guilty; that’s not appropriate for me to weigh in on, particularly given the dearth of evidence here. I defer to Australia’s legal system.

But, again, what’s important is I see nothing in either the chronology or surrounding narrative that supports the charge that, as the post says, ‘the presumption of innocence was almost lethally compromised and undermined’. The material proof of that assertion is omitted.

 

 

“In overturning the jury’s decision of December 2018, the seven High Court judges said the jury, ‘acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted’”

The Hight Court judges ruled that “the jury ‘ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt”.

That means the jury “entertained” a Presumption of Guilt, which is why I assert “the presumption of innocence was almost lethally compromised and undermined”.

Martin Cohen said…I think the presumption of innocence is particularly important with events so far off and subject to distorted memories and recall. In particular, witness evidence is even more prone to confused recollections than shortly after the event, while someone who is accused will have great difficulty defending themselves with regard to what “they did” when (if innocent) they can hardly be expected to remember much. Ironically, a guilty person has much more reason to remember events and be able to produce a coherent but false narrative…20 April 2020 at 13:24

Richard W. Symonds said…

Indeed, “the presumption of innocence is particularly important with events so far off and subject to distorted memories and recall…”. And now there is a fresh abuse allegation against Cardinal Pell which has come just after his acquittal – alleged to have taken place over 40 years ago “back in the 1970s”.

20 April 2020 at 14:51  

 

In our complex societies, we ‘prioritise the principles of social life’, as Yves Simon put it. Together with procedures which support those principles, this removes passions and prejudices as the basis for the system — rather artificially, one might add.

I asked myself how plausible it is that someone should bring false charges against a Cardinal. Does that really happen? Indeed it does, and it has been proved. See The Australian, ‘Cardinal George Pell convicted for a lacklustre display of empathy,’ by Angela Shanahan. Which is not to say that all charges are false, including those where there is acquittal.

This past week, my neighbour was taken from his home and jailed. When we checked, the police had failed to follow Standard Operating Procedure. For instance, they failed to ask him for a statement, and it looks as though there wasn’t a valid statement against him. Here is an example of what happens where passions and prejudices are allowed any room.

20 April 2020 at 16:50

Richard W. Symonds said…

“I asked myself how plausible it is that someone should bring false charges against a Cardinal. Does that really happen? Indeed it does…”

Yes, indeed it does. In the case of the Southampton football manager Dave Jones, falsely accused of abusing his children [recounted in his autobiography ‘No Smoke, No Fire’ – 2009], the police were forced to ‘trawl’ in prisons to find inmates to come forward to back up the accuser’s story. The presiding judge – Judge David Clarke – concluded: “No doubt there will be people who are going to think there is no smoke without fire. I can do nothing about that except to say such an attitude would be wrong”

20 April 2020 at 18:55 

 

 

“CARDINAL PELL AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE” BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS

Cardinal George Pell released from Australia’s Geelong prison – April 7, 2020. 
 (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

 

I have been prompted to write this article because of the close parallels with the Bishop Bell case. [See ‘Afternote’ at end of article].

Richard W. Symonds

CARDINAL PELL AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE” BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS OF THE BELL SOCIETY – 

The principle of the presumption of innocence is of extreme importance, and the case of Cardinal George Pell has implications for the respect for – and security of – this principle. 

That one is considered innocent until proven guilty is a vital pre-condition for our survival and well-being within a civilised society. Undermining such jurisprudence can lead to catastrophic miscarriages of justice which ultimately threaten our humanity.

‘Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat’ is one of the foundational legal principles – a bedrock of our civilization: ‘the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies’. The accused is not required to defend or prove their innocence; it is for the accuser to prove guilt – beyond reasonable doubt. 
Presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial and an international human right embodied under Article 11 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
A just law must be a fair law which punishes the guilty, not the innocent. Presumption of innocence is an immunity against unjust accusations.
In the case of Cardinal George Pell, a disturbing and dislocating miscarriage of justice has been exposed within Australia’s justice system – and presumption of innocence has been lethally compromised and undermined.
A basic history of events – a timelined chronology if you will – might help:
July 16 1996 – Bishop George Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. A former choirboy later testifies Bishop Pell molested him and his friend – both aged 13 – in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne that year, after Mass.

March 26 2001 – Archbishop Pell becomes Archbishop of Sydney.

October 21 2003 – Pope John Paul II makes Archbishop Pell a Cardinal.

February 25 2014 – Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Pell as his Finance Minister – Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

April 8 2014 – One of the choirboys dies aged 31 of a heroin overdose, without alleging the molestation by Pell and telling his mother he had not been abused by Pell.

August 5 2014 – Victoria police establish a Task Force to investigate how religious and other non-government organizations [NGO’s] deal with abuse accusations.

June 18 2015 – The surviving choirboy gives his first statement to the police, claiming sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell.

December 23 2015 – The Victoria Police Task Force appeals publicly for information relating to allegations of sexual abuse while Cardinal George Pell was Melbourne Archbishop.

March 1 2016 – Cardinal Pell testifies by video link from Rome to the Australian child abuse inquiry. Pell was critical on how the Church had dealt with paedophile priests in the past, but denied he had been aware of the extent of the problem.

October 19 2016 – Victoria police go to Rome to question Cardinal Pell who hears details of the choirboy’s abuse allegations against him for the first time.

June 29 2017 – Police charge Pell with multiple counts of historical sexual abuse. This made him the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged in the Church’s abuse crisis. Pell denied the accusations and took leave of absence from the Vatican to return to Australia to defend himself.

July 26 2017 – Cardinal Pell makes his first court appearance on charges that he sexually abused multiple children in Victoria decades earlier. Details of the allegations were not made public. Pell vows to fight the allegations.

May 1 2018 – A Magistrate commits Cardinal Pell to stand trial. He pleads not guilty to all charges.

May 2 2018 – A Judge separates the charges into two trials; the first dating to his tenure as Melbourne Archbishop and the other when he was a young priest in Ballarat during the 1970’s.

December 11 2018 – Jury unanimously convicts Cardinal Pell on all charges in the Melbourne case.

February 26 2019 – Suppression order forbidding publication of any details about the trial is lifted. Prosecutors abandon trial on the Ballarat charges.

March 13 2019 – Judge sentences Cardinal Pell to six years in prison on five sex abuse convictions in which he must serve 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.

August 21 2019 – Victoria Court of Appeal rules 2-1 to uphold the convictions, but there is “stinging dissent” by that Court’s leading criminal law expert.

The High Court, Australia’s top court, in an unusual procedural move, agrees to hear Cardinal Pell’s leave to appeal, and his actual substantive appeal, concurrently.

April 7 2020 – All seven judges of the High Court of the Australian Court of Appeal quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. In a volte-face, they unanimously agree the appeal has succeeded, dismiss all convictions, and release Cardinal Pell immediately – after he spent 13 months in high-security prisons. 

In overturning the jury’s decision of December 2018, the seven High Court judges said the jury, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted”. There was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”. The High Court referred to what it called “the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses” at the 2018 trial, which suggested there was cause for doubt.

This case has attracted world-wide attention for good reason.

It is clear Cardinal George Pell should never have been convicted. It is clear he should never have spent 13 months incarcerated behind bars. It is clear there was a miscarriage of justice in the December 2018 jury conviction. It is clear Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholding the judge’s March 2019 conviction was wrong.

What lies at the heart of our justice system is Lord Sankey’s ‘golden thread’ which runs through criminal and common law: Guilt must be proved by the accuser’s prosecution beyond any reasonable doubt. This undoubtedly did not take place in the case of Cardinal Pell, before the High Court judges intervened this April to make just the injustice.

It is better many guilty go free rather than one innocent is wrongly convicted and jailed for a crime they did not commit.

The unanimous High Court judgement makes explicit the standard of reasonable doubt and makes implicit criticisms of the Victoria Court of Appeal for not understanding what that means. There was a presumption of guilt on their part, but he has now been found ‘not guilty’ beyond reasonable doubt.The Cardinal is therefore entitled to be presumed innocent because that is what  the Presumption of Innocence is all about – innocent until proven guilty.

AFTERNOTE

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph carried an item about a new abuse allegation having just been made against Cardinal Pell, following his recent acquittal [“New child abuse police inquiry into cardinal”, DT, April 14 2020 – Page 15].

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This reminds me particularly of the events of Jan/Feb 2018, immediately following the Carlile Review (see Chronology below) – and has prompted the “Cardinal Pell and the Presumption of Innocence” piece.

PELL, BELL AND JUSTICE – CHURCH TIMES [UNPUBLISHED LETTER]

rachel-reupke_letter-of-complaint_still_cubitt-gallery-680x356

Dear Editor

The Church of England hierarchy would be advised to familiarise itself with the unanimous decision of seven High Court judges of the Australian Court of Appeal to quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell (“Cardinal Pell’s conviction quashed by High Court”, CT, April 7). 
 
The jury, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted”. There was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
 
In the case of the character assassination of Bishop George Bell, the evidence used by the Church of England hierarchy – which includes Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner – was even more flimsy.

Let truth and justice speak above the shameful, ecclesiastical silence.

 

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

TIM HUDSON LETTER SUBMISSION TO THE TIMES – FEBRUARY 2020

rachel-reupke_letter-of-complaint_still_cubitt-gallery-680x356

Sir,

So the Archbishops of Canterbury and York “have issued a rare joint apology” for the Church of England’s misguided declaration that those in civil partnerships should not have sex. (“Archbishops ‘very sorry’ for sex advice”, Jan 31).  This, they now acknowledge, “has jeopardised trust” among the general public.

Apologies from clergy, especially senior ones, are rare indeed in my experience.

The Archbishops have one further apology to make while they are in the mood – to admirers and relatives of Bishop George Bell of Chichester (died 1958).  The saintly bishop was accused a few years ago of paedophilia on extremely uncertain grounds given his previously entirely blameless reputation.  Against all reason Archbishop Welby still considers Bell to be ‘under a cloud’.  This unjustified slur has been long overdue for removal, and the present moment would be a good time to achieve that.

Tim Hudson

Chichester
West Sussex,

‘BISHOP BELL – DRESDEN’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY A. ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

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Image copyright GETTY IMAGES The bombing of Dresden created a firestorm that destroyed the centre of the city

‘DRESDEN – BISHOP BELL’ LETTER SUBMITTED BY THE REVD DR BARRY A. ORFORD TO THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

 

The Editor

The Daily Telegraph

London

SW1W 0DT

February 13th, 2020

 

Sir,

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.

 

Barry A. Orford

barry_orford
The Revd Dr Barry  A. Orford

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Dear Editor

Earlier this month, at Westminster Abbey, there was a Service of Thanksgiving for the politician and diplomat Lord ‘Paddy’ Ashdown who died last year.

In the Epilogue of his last book – “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” – Lord Ashdown concludes:

“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here”

Later next month, in Chichester Cathedral*, some of those questions will be addressed at the Coburg Conference which “will focus on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s and George Bell’s work, and what it can teach us in the light of today’s political situation”. 

Yours sincerely 

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

 

* October 10th to 14th. Venue: 4 Canon Lane (formerly George Bell House), Chichester Cathedral

Nicholas Reade on Bishop Bell – Extracts from “Rarely Ordinary Time – Some Memoirs” [Rother 2019]

gerbellg5

Bishop George Bell

Nicholas Reade on Bishop Bell – Extracts from “Rarely Ordinary Time – Some Memoirs” [Rother 2019]

Page 30-33

As well as being Chairman of the Liturgical Commission, Dr. Jasper was an historian, and, a few years previously, had written the life of Arthur Cayley Headlam of Gloucester. At that time, we were all awaiting the publication of his biography of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester [1929-58], one of the greatest bishops ever produced by the Church of England, who many expected to become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1943, when William Temple died suddenly.

Bishop Bell was a courageous church leader, who had helped Jews and others to escape from Nazi Germany, and spoken out in the House of Lords against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities in the Second World War. He was a great ecumenist, theologian, and patron of the arts and a much-loved pastor. Christine had spent her previous summer holidays working on the index of this long-awaited biography.

Dr. Jasper was always very humble and modest about his work and scholarship, and would seldom initiate conversation about what he had achieved. As I became more involved with the family, I sensed that Bishop Bell had almost become part of the household, so the revelation fifty-seven years after his death that the Church had made an apology to one complainant, on the grounds that the Bishop had abused her between sixty-five and seventy-five years ago, seemed utterly unbelievable. 

While the Church has been careful not to say that the Bishop is guilty, it has ruined his reputation. Originally, no information was given as to the process by which the Church had come to this conclusion, other than the statement that ‘experts’ had been involved. Such secrecy was hard to countenance in an age of ‘transparency’. As a family, and in common many others, we expressed our concern in the church press, and have continued to do so. In 2017, the Core Group Report was seriously criticised by Lord Carlile QC in his review into the Church’s handling of the complaint.

Of course, it is right and proper that the Church investigates thoroughly every complaint made against every person and however famous and respected – and however ancient. Given, from the beginning, how shaky and questionable the allegation against Bishop Bell appeared to be, what has greatly concerned me is that the bishops of the Church of England, who, certainly in the past, had a fine reputation for standing against injustice and for being unafraid of making themselves unpopular, have expressed not one word of concern at the destruction of Bishop Bell – with the exception of the Bishop of Peterborough, in a speech in the House of Lords, and, more recently, the Bishop of Chester. A couple of retired bishops have voiced our concerns and given support to the George Bell Group, but our view carries little weight.

An allegation is made against him around sixty-five years later; he is tried by, frankly, what looks like a kangaroo court – with nobody to speak up for him, as Lord Carlile pointed out. Not a single bishop was prepared to query publicly what was being said, and how it was being dealt with. The left-leaning newspapers, always eager to campaign on miscarriages of justice, have given scant support to those of us concerned concerned at the traducing of Bell’s reputation.

It has been left to The Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday to write powerfully about the basic principles of justice being ignored by the Church. The Church is the Sacrament of the Kingdom, and becomes what she is meant to be in the celebration of the Eucharist – this keeps me going. It is the institutional church that gets so much wrong (as I know, also, from my own mistakes). I can therefore understand the anger and the real disappointment of the person who told me that ‘the whole episode’ of the church’s handling of the Bishop Bell situation ‘puts you off church-going’.

My first concern as a bishop has always been for the survivor (even though I am aware of falling short some twenty-two years ago, when measured alongside today’s strict and excellent standards); but until it can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt that Bishop Bell abused a child, I will continue to call upon George Bell within the Communion of Saints to pray with me and for me. Meanwhile, I continue to treasure on my bookshelves Bishop Bell’s copy of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, given to himon 7 October 1957.

Much has changed concerning Bishop Bell’s reputation following further enquiries, and the long awaited report of the Right Worshipful Timothy Briden, Vicar-General of Canterbury. What will not change, is the inadequate original investigation, and that George Bell, one of the ‘saints’ of the Church of England, who is commemorated every year (3rd Oct) in our liturgical calendar as bishop, ecumenist, and peacemaker (1958), should for the last four years have been cast into the wilderness by the Church he served with love and the greatest distinction.

Page 88 & 89

I was sorry, also, to say farewell to Bishop Kenneth Skelton, the Diocesan Bishop. I admired him in many ways; he took time to get to know his clergy and was generous with the time and encouragement he gave to me as a young incumbent. Although he came across as shy initially, I found him very easy – and it helped that he could always see the humour in situations. He had the gift of drawing out the best in people. He was a truly pastoral bishop, who worked collaboratively and strategically. This remarkably gifted man, whose leadership was prophetic, appears to have been forgotten about in the Church of Rngland – possibly because he was a very humble person.

Kenneth had served as Bishop of Matabeleland from 1962 to 1970 in western Rhodesia, where he was deeply respected as a pastor and theologian, and where he championed the cause of the black majority, inevitably clashing with many politicians. he wrote a gripping account of his ministry in Matabeleland, ‘Bishop in Smith’s Rhodesia’ (Mambo Press, 1985). The Law and Order Minister called him ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, and stated that the government was watching him.

He was also dubbed ‘Red Skelton’, after the American comedian. Some commented that Kenneth could best be compared in the Church of England with Bishop George Bell, for both worked tirelessly for social justice and were fearless in speaking out.

Page 111

As with the four other parishes I had worked in, I lost no time in getting down to work – but this was a somewhat larger area and responsibility than I had experienced before; there was a huge in-tray demanding my attention. Every day new issues would hit my desk.

On my first day, I visited Bishop Bell School – now called St. Catherine’s College – the large Church of England secondary school in the Langney area of Eastbourne, opened by H.R.H. Princess Margaret in 1958 and dedicated by Bishop Bell. This was his last act after twenty-nine years as bishop, and he was to die shortly afterwards. He had specifically requested that the school be built in a less affluent and expanding area of Eastbourne. Whenever I entered that building, which also housed his mitre and crozier. I never felt that this courageous and truly great bishop was far away.

Page 261

17. You have a great respect for Bishop George Bell and have expressed concerns about how the allegation made against him has been handled by the Church of England.

Yes indeed – and I am joined in this by many from around the world. Others much better qualified than me to make a judgement have taken the view, from the earliest stages of the allegation, that the evidence was not compelling. I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere, who has looked at the facts available and believes that the handling of this allegation reflects credit on the Church. One comment was ‘what a circus’ – which would be amusing if the case were not so serious. It has of course been extremely difficult to find out much about it, because of the lack of transparency.

To be fair to those who have dealt with this, and in the light of the public reaction, Lord Carlile QC was invited to review how the Church handled the whole matter. His report leaves the Church with the very difficult task of ensuring that we will never again allow such an injustice to occur. I am surprised the Church did not understand that any institution seeking to act as investigator, accuser, judge and jury cannot deliver justice.

I came across a memo, and I cannot remember where it came from, of what Lord Woolton said to Bishop George Bell on 9 February 1944, just before he made his courageous speech against the indiscriminate bombing of German cities: ‘George, there isn’t a soul in this House who doesn’t wish you wouldn’t make the speech you are going to make…you must know that. But I also want to tell you that there isn’t a soul who doesn’t know that the only reason why you make it, is because you believe it is your duty to make it as a Christian priest’.

That is the Bishop Bell we will all remember, along with his many other heroic deeds. It is tragic, as the Bell Group Press Release of 15 December 2017 argued, that the institutional church today deprived this bishop, who has been dead for over sixty years, of the presumption of innocence or of due process…

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have faced severe criticism for the way in which this whole matter has been handled, and tendered their apologies for it.

Lord Carlile QC, who conducted the 2017 independent investigation into the Bishop Bell allegations, forwarded a Statement to be read out at the Bell Society meeting on 4 February 2019, in the building that used to be called George Bell House, Chichester. It contained the following words:

“I hope that this event will add to the clamour for the Church to admit the awful mistakes it has made in dealing with unsubstantiated allegations against Bishop Bell. His name should never have been publicised before allegations were investigated. The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him”

With the dedication of the Bishop Bell statue in Canterbury Cathedral (where he served as Dean between 1924 and 1929), it is to be hoped that a line may be drawn under this sad episode, banishing any shadow over Bishop Bell’s good name – for surely, his character and all he achieved by the grace of God are conjoined.

 

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George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral [before the name change in 2015] [Picture: Alamy]

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“No justification for lack of name” – Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019

The phrase that 4 Canon Lane was ‘formerly known as George Bell House’ is misleading.  4 Canon Lane is a street address.  The building was given to the cathedral to commemorate Bishop George Bell, funds were raised for its renovation as George Bell House and it was dedicated as such in 2008 by Archbishop Rowan Williams.  It has never been undedicated.  The name ‘George Bell House’ therefore still stands.  The right of the cathedral authorities to attempt to remove it without due consultation with all parties concerned is highly contentious.
In view of the findings of two senior lawyers that the allegations made against George Bell are not only unproven but unfounded, there is no justification for the continued absence of his name from the building.  On the contrary, there would be every justification for all those who contributed to the renovation of George Bell House to request their money back unless the name is immediately reinstated, or to take other action as they deem appropriate.
The statement that ‘Chichester Cathedral Friends has no official position on the George Bell issue’ beggars belief.  George Bell founded the Friends in 1939.  It was entirely in order to raise this question at their anniversary meeting on 6 June.  The reply given at the time was that it would now be considered.  We await a further statement with interest.
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield
“Injustice on the Sisters and us” – Charlotte A Evans – Chichester Observer Letter – June 20 2019
Your report on the demonstration at George Bell House [4 Canon Lane] seems slightly to misrepresent the issue, in stating that its purpose was “to highlight the ‘injustice’ on the former Bishop”.
As I understand it, the protesters were gathered to highlight, first, the injustice on the Sisters* who donated the house, and on all of us who contributed financially to the renovation of the former Archdeaconry.
It was formally opened by Archbishop Rowan Williams as “George Bell House”, in 2008.
Thus, the commemoration of Bishop Bell was integral to the establishment of the centre, and ought not to have been suppressed by the Dean & Chapter.
You are right, of course, to report the sense of injustice regarding Bishop Bell.
Many of your readers will be aware of the petition to restore the name to George Bell House, which [I believe] has over a thousand signatories so far.
Thank you for your reporting.
Charlotte A Evans
Chichester
* Anglican Sisters of the Community of the Servants of the Cross