Judge slates London diocese over Timothy Storey rape case
St Michael’s, Chester Square
THE diocese of London has been accused of “shamefully” trying to shift the blame for safeguarding failures concerning an ordinand who raped two teenagers he got to know as a church youth worker.
The criticism came from Judge Katz QC while sentencing Timothy Storey, 35, a former ordinand who was convicted in February on three charges of rape and one of sexual assault (News, 26 February).
His two victims were under 18 when they were groomed online and then raped. The rapist met his victims while working as a children’s pastor at a church in central London.
Sentencing Mr Storey to 15 years in prison, Judge Katz said that his “insidious” behaviour warranted a further four years on licence after his custodial sentence was completed. But he also strongly criticised the diocese of London. “It seems to me that there was a wholesale failure by those responsible at that time for safeguarding,” Judge Katz said. When the diocese eventually decided to talk to Mr Storey about allegations made against him, it asked someone “clearly unsuited” to the task to confront him.
Furthermore, this official’s superior “arrogantly refused” to give a statement to prosecutors for the trial, and seemed to be most concerned about the diocese’s reputation.
But it was the statement released by the diocese at the conclusion of the trial in February which came in for the greatest criticism.
The statement said that the diocese had investigated the allegations of assault in 2009, and then passed on the information to the Metropolitan Police, who decided that no crime had been committed.
But this was a travesty of what had really happened, Judge Katz said. In fact, the police had investigated Mr Storey “diligently and sensitively, something the diocese had been incapable of”.
The diocese’s statement, which “appeared to suggest that the diocese had acted appropriately at all times”, and implied that the police were to blame, “was a shameful misrepresentation of the truth”, the judge concluded.
A spokeswoman for the diocese said that an independent review of the diocese’s handling of the case had been ordered, and Mr Storey’s victims would be contacted in due course. “We fully acknowledge the comments that have been made by the judge, and we are committed to ensuring that lessons are learned and acted upon,” the spokeswoman said.
“While, since 2010, we have made significant improvements to our safeguarding processes and greatly increased the resources available, we are constantly striving to make our Church safe for everyone. Timothy Storey carried out a series of appalling crimes, and we are profoundly sorry for what his victims endured.”
The George Bell Group
We are an independent group whose members represent a concentration of experience in public life, in the fields of law, policing, politics, journalism, academic research and church affairs. This group began to meet in response to the 22 October 2015 statement issued by the Church of England about Bishop George Bell. See this BBC report for the original story. On 15 December 2017 the Church of England published the independent review of Lord Carlile and issued three statements made in response by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Bath & Wells.
We warmly welcome the Report written by Timothy Briden and congratulate him on his thorough examination of the evidence which led him to the explicit conclusion that the new allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded. There are no other allegations.
It is time to conclude a matter which has lasted altogether three and a half years. The investigative activities and processes of the church authorities themselves have been devastated by independent legal judgement. The assurances with which these authorities have justified themselves and effectively promoted a case against Bishop Bell in public have been discredited. Bishop Bell’s reputation is today vindicated and affirmed by authoritative opinion. What remains of the story is only a matter of contemporary church politics.
Read the full response of the George Bell Group (May 2019)
Statement May 2019
Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence. Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.
THE CARLILE REVIEW
The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.
The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.
Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.
The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.
THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS
The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries. Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.
Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.
Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.
THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW
The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal.
It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.
We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.
It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.
We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.
The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.
Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.
As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.
It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘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.’
We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.
There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.
Tory war with Met police over ‘thousands of pornographic images on computer of Damian Green
The allegation heaped further pressure on Theresa May’s embattled deputy. However, it also left Scotland Yard in the spotlight about its handling of personal data obtained in investigations.
Lord Carlile, the former watchdog over anti-terror laws, called on Met chief Cressida Dick to exert her “authority” and take control of the force’s handling of the controversy.
The new allegations came from Neil Lewis, who was a Met expert in analysing computers, attached to counter-terrorism investigations. He was part of the team that raided Mr Green’s House of Commons office in 2008.
The operation was mounted to catch a Whitehall official leaking secrets to the Tory MP but officers made the chance discovery that Mr Green’s parliamentary computer appeared to have been used to view porn.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Lewis said he was “shocked” at the volume of pornographic images and had “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that these were accessed by Mr Green.
His study of the machine suggested someone spent “hours” browsing porn at Mr Green’s desk in the Commons over many weeks. However, he said the images were “legal” and not violent or extreme.
“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name,” said Mr Lewis. “In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents … it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”
He said that although “you can’t put fingers on a keyboard”, the evidence made him sure it was Mr Green who was accessing the “thumbnail” images. Similar material had also been accessed on Mr Green’s laptop, he claimed.
Mr Green, 61, the MP for Ashford in Kent, became First Secretary of State earlier this year. Experts in civil liberties were shocked by an apparent admission by Mr Lewis that the data copied from Mr Green’s computer was not permanently “deleted” but could have been recovered if needed.
Lord Carlile, a former Lib Dem MP who later served as the independent Government adviser on counter-terror laws, said he was alarmed that retired police officers appeared to be briefing against a Cabinet minister. He said there appeared to be “a complete loss of authority” at Scotland Yard.
“I would expect the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to take charge given that we are dealing with the effective deputy prime minister,” he said.
“I think the whole conduct of the police in this case is quite extraordinary.”
Two senior Tory ex-ministers also criticised the police leaks. Tim Loughton, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “This whole matter stinks. The Met urgently need to investigate this leak.
“This raises questions of trust in the police if material that was fully investigated nine years ago and did not merit any action mysteriously reappears.”
Mr Mitchell told the Today programme: “Mr Green has been absolutely emphatic in what he said. He has said repeatedly that he never downloaded or viewed this material.
“I think Mr Green is entitled to be believed. I think the hounding of Mr Green over information which everyone is clear was entirely legal and which he has emphatically denied either downloading or viewing is completely wrong.”
“I think it is highly questionable whether a retired police officer should misuse this sort of material in this way and I think the police need to explain why there was any record kept of entirely legal activity.
A Labour legal figure added: “The police can’t just seize your computer for one reason and then blacken your name with what they found on it later, where no charges are brought.
“Trust in the police depends on them keeping confidential material they obtain through using their powers as police officers.”