Tag Archives: Bishop George Bell

“PELL DECISION SHOWS THE LEGAL SYSTEM IS WORKING, BUT IT IS NOT THE RIGHT SYSTEM”

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https://www.mondaq.com/australia/trials-appeals-compensation/927696/pell-decision-shows-the-legal-system-is-working-but–it-is-not-the-right-system

In freeing George Pell, the High Court did not change the law. It did not render jury trials meaningless. That is so, whether you agree or disagree with the factual conclusion it reached after imposing its own opinion about the evidence in place of the jury’s in Pell’s trial.

The court did, however, plant a flag firmly in the sand. Its emphatic declaration, made with the full force of seven judge unanimity, was this: the criminal law of Australia makes no special allowances for allegations of historical sexual violence against children. Sexual violence, whenever it happened, however frequently and insidiously and whoever were its victims, will be treated no differently from any other category of crime.

This is the watershed moment for our society. The highest court has confirmed, definitively, the status quo of the law. A person, powerful or not, accused of a sexual crime, is entitled to the identical protections as any criminal defendant. These are the presumption of innocence; the protection of the prosecution’s burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt; and, most critically, the right to silence.

We knew this already, but now we can’t ignore it. The questions it leaves are these: are we content to continue with a criminal justice system which makes it almost impossible for victims of sexual violence, particularly those who come forward many years later, to see their perpetrators convicted? Is it satisfactory that most victims will never come forward at all, because they can see that it will be they who are put on trial?

These are uncomfortable questions. They are rooted in fact. Sexual crimes are massively under-reported; complainants are inevitably retraumatised by the criminal justice process; convictions are incredibly difficult to secure. None of these facts engage a conspiracy theory about the rich and powerful. They’re plain, incontrovertible facts.

If this is not okay, then we are wasting our time arguing over the minutiae of the movements of Monsignor Portelli on any given Sunday at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The system that ultimately freed Pell worked, within the parameters by which it has operated since it was invented. There was doubt, sufficient for the High Court anyway, and the conviction could not stand.

So forget that system; it doesn’t work. Not because the High Court got it wrong, but because the system’s design does not fit crimes of sexual violence, especially those committed by perpetrators exploiting a position of trust or authority.

Personally, I do not think the problem is with the criminal standard of proof. Beyond reasonable doubt is an extremely high hurdle, but it should be. Nobody should be punished for a crime if it is not satisfied.

Nor is the presumption of innocence the wrong way around. Like many advocates, I start from the position of believing every complainant who alleges sexual violence. It doesn’t follow, however, that the accused person should have to prove their innocence. Most assaults occur without witnesses or unequivocally damning forensic evidence, and the benefit of doubt must still fall in favour of not putting innocent people in prison.

I think the root of our problem is the adversarial justice system itself. There are many other issues — cultural, educational, police training, rules of evidence and the drafting of sexual violence laws. But what goes wrong at a fundamental level is the reality of who is on trial.

In the adversarial system, the burden is entirely on the prosecution to prove guilt. The accused has no obligation to play any role at all in their own trial, beyond pleading that they are not guilty (they don’t even have to declare their innocence). After the plea, they can sit back and let the prosecutor rip. If they can manage to raise a reasonable doubt and the prosecution can’t find a way to defeat it, then acquittal must result. And they can get there without saying a word.

Pell took that course, as was his right. He did not give evidence at his own trial; his version of events has never been revealed. All we know is what he said at a press conference, rather than under oath: that the crimes never happened.

No criticism of Pell; he was entitled to take that course and it ultimately succeeded for him. But there is an alternative we could consider.

If, instead of the adversarial system, we adopted an inquisitorial one, then the emphasis would shift from a one-side contest of proving guilt on a legal standard, to a singular focus on getting to the truth. In that type of system, all parties have the same role: to assist the court to get to the bottom of the matter, and determine what actually happened

In such a set-up, a person accused of a crime of sexual violence would maintain the protection of the presumption of innocence and still could not be found guilty except beyond reasonable doubt, but they would be stripped of their right to remain silent. They would be obliged to respond; to tell their side of the story, to face cross-examination, to have their credibility tested alongside that of their accuser.

Before the howls of outrage begin, remember two things: first, what victims consistently say is that they want to feel heard. That does not happen when the only person being questioned, tested, challenged and disbelieved, throughout the entire process, is them. A justice process that causes more trauma to the victims it means to protect is not just.

Second, what I said before. What we have doesn’t work. Unless we don’t particularly care about delivering justice for the legions of victims of sexual violence among us, then something has to fundamentally shift.

If it ain’t broken don’t fix it? Well, it’s broken.

We do not disclaim anything about this article. We’re quite proud of it really.

AUTHOR(S)

Michael Bradley
Marque Lawyers

POPULAR ARTICLES ON: Litigation, Mediation & Arbitration from Australia

George Pell not guilty of child sexual offences, High Court finds

Sydney Criminal Lawyers

The justice system has worked effectively in finding insufficient evidence to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

“The battle against corruption is very important, but it can’t come at the expense of the battle for human rights and the right of defendants. We have to educate ourselves as a society that a person cannot be penalized before he is convicted by a court. A presumption of innocence is one of the most important principles of criminal law”

~ Prof. Menachem Mautner, a leading expert on Israel’s constitutional law and the author of a book on Liberalism in Israel

 

“At the core of this basic premise of human rights is that every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent unless and until his or her guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt. The idea of innocence is not dialogue written for a series based on the law. It is law.  It is the job of the accuser, or the prosecutor, to prove that the crime was committed.  That the accused is guilty of committing that crime”

~ Jacquie Kubin

 

“In America, everyone who is accused of a crime has the right to be presumed innocent.  It’s also true that accusations of criminal behavior are investigated. That should be done with every case of sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, or rape.  Every single one.  It starts with believing the survivor, but does not end there.  To suggest that believing them means convicting the accused overlooks legal protections beginning with the presumption of innocence and going on to the right to confront your accuser and evidence offered and so on.

Me Too became a thing because mostly privileged men pretty much had immunity from prosecution for rape and other sex crimes.  Then we saw some high profile convictions, such as those of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein.  Jeffrey Epstein was awaiting trial he died in prison.  The survivors in all these cases had to fight decades just to get their day in court.

And yet, as Christine Pelosi pointed out in a thread on Twitter, the process for investigating alleged sexual misconduct by members of the Senate or the House is broken.

– Adalia Woodbury

“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

“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 – The Bell Society

April 20 2020 – “Cardinal Pell: Natural and Inalienable Rights” – ‘Philosophical Investigations’

 

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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 8

Peter Hitchens

April 21 2019 – Peter Hitchens on Liberty, Justice and the decline of the Jury – and the Presumption of Innocence

Excerpt

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 

Dec 31 2017 – “Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (4)” – ‘Bats in the Belfry’ – Christopher Hill

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Christopher Hill

https://rothercottage.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/bishop-george-bell-the-churchs-failure-4/

Bishop George Bell: the Church’s failure (4)

The publication by the Church of England of Lord Carlile’s review was accompanied by three episcopal statements. I look today at those by the Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Dr Warner contends that “Lord Carlile’s Independent Review is a demonstration of the Church of England’s commitment to equality of justice and transparency in our safeguarding practice.”

This opening remark is ambiguous. Does Dr Warner mean that the report itself demonstrates …? If so, he is clearly mistaken, since the report does nothing to strengthen the Church’s reputation for seeking justice.

Or does he mean that the fact that the he asked for a report to be compiled demonstrates…etc? In that case his account is partial, for without public pressure the Church would not have perceived any need for a review.

Dr Warner goes on to apologise for the Core Group’s deficiencies, and seems to think that improving Its protocols will help in future. But the Core Group’s failure was nothing to do with protocols. It stemmed from lack of direction, (which the Bishop could have remedied) and from muddled thinking, which he could have prevented.

Warner refers to the complexity of the case, before making the statement that “The emotive principle of innocent until proven guilty is a standard by which our actions are judged…”Did he really mean ‘emotive’? Was the case really so complex?

Warner’s next remark is even more striking: “Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim, ‘Carol’ emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity. It is essential that her right to privacy continues to be fully respected.”

Can he possibly have meant to write ‘technically’? The distinction between a complainant on the one hand, and a survivor or victim on the other is very far from technical, if by ‘technical’ is meant ‘unimportant’.

It is mysterious that Warner emphasises the need for the complainant’s privacy to be respected. The law is well known to all concerned, and none of the critics of the Church’s procedures has sought to break it.

Dr Warner concludes: “The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally. They will stand the test of time. In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed.”

As I have remarked before, he is surely wrong to allege that we are ALL diminished. What is clear is that the reputations of those who lent themselves to the Church’s handling of the case have been diminished.

We come, finally, to a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, which also accompanied Lord Carlile’s report. He begins that “Bishop George Bell is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century. The decision to publish his name was taken with immense reluctance, and all involved recognised the deep tragedy involved. “

Lord Carlile’s account of the proceedings of the Core Group, the body that took the decision, does not indicate any great reluctance in its members, nor any deep sense of tragedy.

Welby correctly says that Carlile does not pronounce on whether or not Bell was guilty, but fails to point out that the question of guilt was not in his terms of reference.

He does apologise for the failures of the Church’s procedures, but spoils the effect by adding “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name…No human being is entirely good or bad. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and whole life should be kept in mind.”

Welby here gives the impression that, if he has read Carlile’s review, it has not dented his determination to leave open the question of Bell’s guilt. It seems not to have occurred to him that, if there is a cloud over Bell’s name, it is there because the hierarchy allowed it to gather and has done nothing to remove it.

There are two more questions. Why are these prelates so obstinately wedded to their non-committal approach to the question of Bell’s guilt or innocence, and what can they do to salvage their reputations?

One possible answer to the first question is that the bishops know some real facts which remained unknown to Lord Carlile, and which they believe allow them to leave the door open to Bell’s guilt. That explanation seems too far-fetched for an otherwise prosaic group of men.

Yet they are not stupid men, and cannot be ignorant of the acrimony and disappointment that they have caused. Perhaps they are simply the victims (survivors?) of habit, in other words they are used to thinking of Bell as guilty; of collegiality, meaning that a self-reinforcing consensus has grown up among them and of pride, which speaks for itself.

As for their reputations, we must hope that the Archbishop will take note of the Bell fiasco in the book that he is writing on values, and that the whole subject will be fully aired at the Synod in February.

December 28 2017 – “Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)” – ‘Bats in the Belfry’ – Christopher Hill

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Christopher Hill

https://rothercottage.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/bishop-george-bell-the-saga-continues-2/

Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)

I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.

At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.

Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”

I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.

Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.

Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.

With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”

I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.

An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.

Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?

As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group,but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.

Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.

From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.

But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.

One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.

In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (2)

I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.

At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.

Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”

I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.

Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.

Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.

With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”

I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.

An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.

Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?

As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group, but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.

Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.

From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.

But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.

One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.

In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

December 26 2017 – “Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (1)” – ‘Bats in the Belfry’ – Christopher Hill

https://rothercottage.wordpress.com/2017/12/26/bishop-george-bell-the-saga-continues-1/

Bishop George Bell: the saga continues (1)

At this hopeful time of year it is a pleasure to congratulate @LordCarlile QC on his review of the procedures followed by the @ChurchofEngland in dealing with sexual allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell of Chichester, who died in 1958. The allegations were first made in 1995 by a woman known only as ‘Carol’, and renewed in 2012 and 2013.

Carlile had not been asked to pronounce on Bell’s guilt or innocence, and he did not do so. What he did was to expose the startling deficiencies in the conduct and administration of the “ Core Group” set up by the Chichester diocese and the national church to look into the whole question. The Group was chaired by members of the diocesan Safeguarding Team, with the current @BishopofChichester , @DrMartinWarner, as a member, though he only attended three (or perhaps fewer) of its five meetings. It came to the conclusion that Bell was probably guilty, whereupon Warner publicly apologised and paid off the complainant.

The Core Group’s deficiencies, identified by Carlile, provide a lesson in how not to run an enquiry which might well be included in university courses. There was unacceptable discontinuity of attendance and chairmanship, papers were not always distributed in the same format to all members, no Advocatus Diaboli was appointed to watch Bell’s interests, the complainant was regarded as a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’ rather than as a complainant, no attempt was made to find any relations of Bell, nor his chaplain, who was still alive and well, though very old, and it seems that no serious attempt was made to test Carol’s allegations, nor to find any corroborative evidence. Carlile tartly says that he had to accept what he was told, that several Group members had extensive experience of the criminal justice system, but that unfortunately there was no evidence that they had shared it.

One of the.most shocking details is that the Group seems to have been determined to believe that Bell must have abused more than one child. Having discovered that he had been in close touch with the German Kindertransport, and had put up young British evacuees at the Palace, it apparently convinced itself that these opportunities for wrongdoing strengthened the case for believing in Bell’s guilt. In fact they strengthen the opposite case, for no whiff of complaint from anyone except Carol had ever been detected. The opportunities were there, but there is no evidence that Bell took them.

Carlile’s devastating review does not explicitly assign responsibility, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it rests with Dr Warner, and with the @ArchbishopofCanterbury himself, who was kept intermittently informed.

Tomorrow I hope to compare with Lord Carlile’s findings some statements made by Dr Warner in November 2015.

Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3

November 23 2017 – “This delay is intolerable” – Chichester Observer – Letter – Meriel Wilmot-Wright of Chichester

2348http://www.chichester.co.uk/news/your-say/letter-bell-report-is-intolerable-1-8257965

LETTER: Bell report [wait] is intolerable MERIEL WILMOT-WRIGHT, LITTLE LONDON MEWS, CHICHESTER

Published: 01:00 Thursday 23 November 2017

It is now eight weeks since the eminent QC Lord Carlile delivered to Archbishop Justin Welby the report of his investigations into the unproven allegations against the late Bishop George Bell. Eight weeks – and the report is still unpublished. This delay is intolerable and there is now a large body of people nationwide calling for its immediate publication – one hopes, without redactions. 

November 9 2017 – Martin Sewell on ‘Must be Believed’ vs. ‘Must Be Taken Seriously’

Martin Sewell – General Synod Member and Child Protection Lawyer [Retd]

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The recent furore about the Parliamentary ‘sex scandals’ – which I prefer to think of as principally about bullying and the misuse of power – is causing people to ask a question afresh. Is it proper to ‘believe’ such allegations when made, or simply to ‘take them seriously’?

This has been live and topical question within the Church of England.

Not only do we have our own slew of allegations coming to the fore, as female clergy and lay people begin to share their stories every bit as serious and worrying as those of Hollywood and Westminster, but we have recently had the Carlile Report into the Church of England’s handling of the allegation against Bishop Bell lodged with Lambeth Palace. That was a month ago, on 7th October. Within that report will lie the answer to our question.

Unfortunately, the church has not yet released that report, telling me that it is being ‘finalised’. One wonders quite what processes this implies, and who exactly is ‘finalising’ this for the independent reviewer. Questions have been asked to clarify these matters, so far without substantial success, but that is a story for another time.

One of course accepts the need for victim anonymisation and giving criticised persons due process, but a projected publication date and confirmation of who exactly is doing what would be good to know in a church which is aiming to embrace transparency and accountability.

Yet the core question of how one treats complaints is a very real and relevant one. Lord Carlile will doubtless have considered both the law and the ‘hot off the press’ report of Sir Richard Henriques report on police mishandling of this very question. That report is important and has presented usable information right now: what is or is not the law is surely an independent matter of fact. The law reports are quite plain in reiterating and approving the approach of Baroness Butler-Sloss as set out in the Cleveland Report in 1987: the victim is entitled to be ‘taken seriously’.

The alternative view is persistently – and erroneously – attractive.

Statistically, most victims are truthful historians about what happened to them. Anyone who has spent time talking to victims of bullying and/or abuse knows how hard it is for them to find the courage to speak, especially when this truth-telling takes place in an institutionally hostile or defensive environment.

It therefore seems a kindness to offer immediate reassurance and support, which is right and proper. A friend, a confessor, an authorised listener, pastoral assistant or therapist may offer such belief and real good will be done by it, but once one enters the more forensic forums where the question becomes ‘Is this allegation true?’, an important and necessary cultural change is required.

In that different environment, which can, frequently does, and should result in life-changing decisions, a more balanced approach necessarily comes into play. In this forum, the only proper response is to fall back upon the tried and trusted principles such as ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘he who asserts must prove’.

The Church of England patently lost sight of this, which resulted in the debacle by which the late Bishop George Bell failed to receive due process for the allegations posthumously made against him – a full half-century after his death. There has been quiet diplomacy going on behind the scenes at General Synod with those of a legal background imploring the National Safeguarding Team to align its approach with the law of the land. Initially this was to little avail, but that is now changing.

I believe we are witnessing a corrective sea change in how we approach these matters.

The Carlile Report was delivered on 7th October; by 13th October a new policy document was produced – ‘Promoting a Safer Church’, issued by House of Bishops (but not debated by Synod). It declares on p. 6:

The Church in exercising its responsibilities to suspicions, concerns, knowledge or allegations of abuse will endeavour to respect the rights under criminal, civil and ecclesiastical law of an accused Church Officer including the clergy. A legal presumption of innocence will be maintained during the statutory and Church inquiry processes.’

Additionally, in a clarification which the NST did provide in answer to inquiries, we learn:

The key piece of guidance here is the ‘Responding to, assessing and managing safeguarding concerns or allegations against church officers’, which was published on 13 October 2017. There is guidance within this document in respect of responding to disclosures or allegations of abuse. For example, Section 2, First response (Page 25) states that a person receiving a safeguarding concern or allegation against a church officer should ‘respond well to the victim/survivor to ensure they feel heard and taken seriously.

An earlier flowchart that began with the words “Believe the victim” is no longer there. The latest practice guidance show that listening has occurred.

The language used for complainants and those complained against is always a sensitive issue. This guidance will usually be needed before there have been any findings in criminal, civil or disciplinary proceedings. At this stage there will be people who have made complaints (referred to as safeguarding concerns or allegations in this guidance) and people against whom complaints have been made. Both victims/survivors and respondents will at this stage be alleged victims/survivors and alleged respondents. For ease of reference this guidance will use the terms ‘victims/survivor’’ and ‘respondent’ without presupposing the accuracy of the complaint. These should be regarded as neutral terms that do not imply the innocence or guilt of either party.

So the angel is in the detail.

These statements demonstrate a highly significant – and immensely welcome – U-turn on the part of the church in how it handles allegations. Instead of institutional pre-judgement, the parties are to be treated equally and with seriousness.

The alignment of the Established Church’s approach in these vital matters with the ordinary standards of justice found in every court in the land is a major change and ought not to be hidden under a bushel. There is much rejoicing in heaven over a sinner that repents.

It is not simply that a long-dead bishop is likely to have due process (though complete exoneration is, in my view, impractical to expect so late in the day), what is much more important is that village priests and curates from Cornwall to Cumbria and beyond, whose causes the great and the good will not rally around, will now have a fair hearing within the disciplinary structures of the church.

I am sure there will be some embarrassment that after two years of resistance Lord Carlile has endorsed the wisdom of the church’s critics. Why it took so long to accept the change, when all the necessary materials were made available at the outset, is also a question for another time.

This is not to be unkind, but rather to ensure that the impetus that improved things for Bishop Bell takes the next step and assists victims who have different injustices outstanding.

The more important priority is to explain to the victim community why this development is actually very good news for them and an important victory in their battle to reform a Church Establishment that finds it very hard to acknowledge its errors in plain and unambiguous terms.

Talking to one of the experienced lawyers for church victims recently, I listened as he described ‘the victim must be believed’ narrative as a blind alley. Too often, in the criminal law context, he explained that cash-strapped police forces ticked their empathy boxes by bringing prosecutions without committing the necessary resources to doing the job properly. This has led to Crown Prosecutors determining not to proceed, but the police being content because they could not be blamed, for had they not ‘believed the victim’? Job done.

Reputation management came before outcome as a priority, and that is unkind and deeply disrespectful. If a task is worth doing, it is worth doing properly.

The ‘always believe the victim’ doctrine is one of cheap virtue. Even cases that passed the tests and were brought to court have sometimes failed through insufficiently robust intellectual rigour being applied to all available angles of the case. An uncritical advancement of a case leads one to walk into a ‘sucker punch’, which would have been seen and avoided if only the case had been properly prepared at the outset. Premature belief can result in sloppy practice. One ceases to take each individual piece of the jigsaw, examine it carefully and ask the simple question: ‘Now what does this mean?’

If the evidence is insufficiently robust, it is better not to bring a case at all rather than to betray a complainant’s trust and leave them angry and humiliated because due process had been skimped with resulting failure.

Yet the legal standard is not unhelpful: ‘taking seriously’ is actually much better than knee-jerk ‘belief’.

When I was a child I believed in Father Christmas. There was superficial evidence for that belief. It had its utility for a while, yet could not hold up to scrutiny once I began to apply my mind to ‘taking the proposition seriously’.

In contrast, I take Jesus Christ seriously.

That does not make things easy. There are things I don’t fully understand, issues I put to one side hoping to gain a fuller understanding later, and I accept there are some questions that I may never fully grasp, yet that seems to me to be a sign of mature engagement.

Jesus himself made just such a distinction.

Not everyone saying “Lord, Lord” is a true follower. He pointed that out. Easy belief must give way to the better way of ‘taking seriously’. Many of us respond better to a faith leader whose whole life demonstrates serious engagement than to one who encourages premature superficial verbal assent.

So when the Carlile Report comes out, and we see the important changes explained in detail, I hope that we will find our Bishops and Safeguarding Officers rejoicing that that have been corrected with sound judgment, and not simply offer a surly nod or terse lip-service.

Rend your hearts not your garments‘ comes to mind. The redrawn documents must be accompanied by the real and public embracing of a new and more healthy culture, as we educate insiders and outsiders alike to the virtues of applying the proper standards in the appropriate points of engagement with those bringing their grievances to the church.

Serious but sensitive listening at the outset; rigorous forensic detachment during the investigatory stage; justice, repentance and proper support and reparation if the complaint is upheld.

What we are seeing is an important curving of the arc of our procedures toward justice, and that is a cause for modest celebration even as we acknowledge that there is so very much more to be done.