Tag Archives: Peter Hitchens

“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’

 

justice4

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 15 2019 – “Does Archbishop Welby’s pride matter more than an elderly lady’s pain?” – Peter Hitchens – Denton Daily

George-Bell-niece-Barbara-Whitley-2

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Mrs Barbara Whitley

PETER HITCHENS: Does Archbishop Welby‘s pride matter more than an elderly lady‘s pain? 

PETER HITCHENS: Does Archbishop Welby‘s pride matter more than an elderly lady‘s pain? 

This Christmas I would like you to think of the plight of a 94-year-old woman, who has been atrociously mistreated by the Archbishop of Canterbury 

This I would like you to think of the plight of a 94-year-old woman, who has been atrociously mistreated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Her name is Mrs Barbara Whitley. More than three years ago, the Church of England publicly accused her beloved long-dead uncle of the filthy crime of child sex abuse.

The charge was based on the word of a single accuser, more than half a century after the supposed offence. The Church had presumed his guilt and made no serious effort to discover the truth. Key living witnesses were neither sought, found nor interviewed. A senior bishop admitted soon afterwards that they were actually not convinced the claim was true. Yet by some mysterious process, a number of newspapers and stations, all on the same day, felt safe in confidently pronouncing that Barbara’s uncle had been a disgusting paedophile. No ifs or buts. Who told them?

A later inquiry would show that this miserable episode was based on nothing more than a chaotic, sloppy kangaroo court. One of this country’s most distinguished lawyers, Lord Carlile, tore the case against Barbara’s uncle to shreds. He said there would have been no chance of a conviction on the evidence available, and made mincemeat of the shambolic committee that had published the original allegation.

After delaying the release of this inquiry for weeks, Justin Welby’s church eventually published it. But did it admit its mistake and restore the reputation of Barbara Whitley’s wrongly defamed uncle?

Nope. Mr Welby, in defiance of all the rules of British justice, sulkily insisted that a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over the name of Barbara’s uncle. Thus, just as she might have been able to rejoice that her relative’s name had at last been cleared, the Head of the Established Church made it his personal business to prevent this.

And then, a few weeks later, another supposed allegation against her uncle was said to have been made. Why then? What was it? Who had made it? Nobody would say, but it served to stifle potential criticism of Mr Welby at the General Synod of the Church of England, which was about to begin. Details of the second allegation remain a secret. After nearly a year, Mr Welby’s church (which has a bad record of sitting on reports that it doesn’t like) still hasn’t come up with its conclusions. Yet Sussex Police, given the same information, dropped their investigations into the matter after a few short weeks.

It all looks a bit as if someone is trying to save someone’s face. But the cruelty to Barbara Whitley, who was 91 when this horrible saga began, is appalling. Who cares about some prelate’s pride (a sin in any case) when Mrs Whitley could be spared any more pain?

Because the cruelty to Mrs Whitley seems to me to be so shocking in a supposedly Christian organisation, I have deliberately left till last that the object of these accusations is the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell. Bell was, as people who knew him have told me, a kind, scrupulously honest, courageous man. He was, most notably, a beloved friend of the German Christians who fought against Hitler and a brave critic of the cruelty of war. I sometimes wonder if modern bishops and archbishops are afraid of being compared with him. They have reason to be. In the meantime, Mr Welby’s church should end Mrs Whitley’s agony.

Does anyone really doubt that, if the archbishop wanted to, he could end the whole business today?

Nov 22 2019 – “Does Archbishop Welby’s pride matter more than an elderly lady’s pain?” – Peter Hitchens at Christmas

George-Bell-niece-Barbara-Whitley-2

Archbishop Justin Welby and Mrs Barbara Whitley

PETER HITCHENS: Does Archbishop Welby‘s pride matter more than an elderly lady‘s pain? 

Peter Hitchens: Does Archbishop Welby‘s pride matter more than an elderly lady‘s pain?

This Christmas I would like you to think of the plight of a 94-year-old woman, who has been atrociously mistreated by the Archbishop of Canterbury 

This I would like you to think of the plight of a 94-year-old woman, who has been atrociously mistreated by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Her name is Mrs Barbara Whitley. More than three years ago, the Church of England publicly accused her beloved long-dead uncle of the filthy crime of child sex abuse.

The charge was based on the word of a single accuser, more than half a century after the supposed offence. The Church had presumed his guilt and made no serious effort to discover the truth. Key living witnesses were neither sought, found nor interviewed. A senior bishop admitted soon afterwards that they were actually not convinced the claim was true. Yet by some mysterious process, a number of newspapers and stations, all on the same day, felt safe in confidently pronouncing that Barbara’s uncle had been a disgusting paedophile. No ifs or buts. Who told them?

A later inquiry would show that this miserable episode was based on nothing more than a chaotic, sloppy kangaroo court. One of this country’s most distinguished lawyers, Lord Carlile, tore the case against Barbara’s uncle to shreds. He said there would have been no chance of a conviction on the evidence available, and made mincemeat of the shambolic committee that had published the original allegation.

After delaying the release of this inquiry for weeks, Justin Welby’s church eventually published it. But did it admit its mistake and restore the reputation of Barbara Whitley’s wrongly defamed uncle?

Nope. Mr Welby, in defiance of all the rules of British justice, sulkily insisted that a ‘significant cloud’ still hung over the name of Barbara’s uncle. Thus, just as she might have been able to rejoice that her relative’s name had at last been cleared, the Head of the Established Church made it his personal business to prevent this.

And then, a few weeks later, another supposed allegation against her uncle was said to have been made. Why then? What was it? Who had made it? Nobody would say, but it served to stifle potential criticism of Mr Welby at the General Synod of the Church of England, which was about to begin. Details of the second allegation remain a secret. After nearly a year, Mr Welby’s church (which has a bad record of sitting on reports that it doesn’t like) still hasn’t come up with its conclusions [See Briden Report for conclusions – Ed]. Yet Sussex Police, given the same information, dropped their investigations into the matter after a few short weeks.

It all looks a bit as if someone is trying to save someone’s face. But the cruelty to Barbara Whitley, who was 91 when this horrible saga began, is appalling. Who cares about some prelate’s pride (a sin in any case) when Mrs Whitley could be spared any more pain?

Because the cruelty to Mrs Whitley seems to me to be so shocking in a supposedly Christian organisation, I have deliberately left till last that the object of these accusations is the late Bishop of Chichester, George Bell. Bell was, as people who knew him have told me, a kind, scrupulously honest, courageous man. He was, most notably, a beloved friend of the German Christians who fought against Hitler and a brave critic of the cruelty of war. I sometimes wonder if modern bishops and archbishops are afraid of being compared with him. They have reason to be. In the meantime, Mr Welby’s church should end Mrs Whitley’s agony.

Does anyone really doubt that, if the archbishop wanted to, he could end the whole business today?

 

[This article previously appeared in the Mail on Sunday – December 16 2018]

 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

“Of course it does!” – Rev Peter Mullen

“Nothing, as we all know, is more important than a person’s reputation, for good or ill. it is astonishing to me that it is still necessary to fight to preserve the reputation of George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, 1929-1958.
I am surprised to think that in 2019 we need to teach an Archbishop of Canterbury (Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge) the vital place of the presumption of innocence in our English system of justice.
Has he not heard of the cases of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four?  They did as much damage to Anglo-Irish relations as the wickedness of the bombers themselves.
Indeed George Bell still has much to teach us about our resistance to the tyranny of Nazi Germany in a world in which so-called civilised nations are still trying to bomb the Middle East into the Stone Age” – Gerald Morgan, FTCD (Leader: English Parliamentary Party, 2001)
“There should be no need for compromise, but there is a possible face-saver for the archbishop. That George Bell should be exonerated there is no doubt. It does not follow, however, that Carol must have been lying. The most probable outcome is that this was a case of mistaken identity, and in Chichester two possible offenders have been identified, though nothing can ever be proved” – Noel Osborne

Nov 17 2019 – Peter Hitchens on Lord Bramall and Bishop Bell…and Archbishop Welby

https://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2019/11/peter-hitchens-well-laugh-at-these-sensitive-students-and-their-virtuous-opinions-but-one-day-these-.html#comments

Peter Hitchens

Peter Hitchens

Welby still won’t do the right thing

Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday – November 17 2019

It is a shocking thing to say, but it is true that it is fortunate for the late Field Marshal Lord Bramall, who died last week, that he was falsely accused while he was still alive. Had the attack happened years after his death, as was the case with the comparably great Bishop George Bell of Chichester, the law would not in the end have rescued his reputation.

You can say what you like about the dead, and nothing will happen to you. The accusations of terrible sex crimes made decades after his death against Bishop Bell have been comprehensively shown to be mistaken, to put it charitably.

But some people, most notable among them the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, Justin Welby, continue to refuse to admit they were mistaken when they first accepted them.

He claims sulkily that there’s still a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop Bell. By behaving in this way, Mr Welby shows he does not properly understand the faith of the church he heads.

 

REACTIONS AND COMMENTS

Revd Peter Mullen

Rev-Peter-Mullen
Good for Peter Hitchens!
Welby and his sidekick, the extremely unpleasant, waxy and oleaginous Bishop Martin Warner of Chichester, have been called to account many times over the last few years and asked politely to do the right thing and apologise. No result.
My opinions don’t count for very much in the world of ecclesiastical skulduggery, but I have published a few articles about this scandal.
Is there anything else to be done?
~ Rev Peter Mullen

Sept 15 2019 – “Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

“Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

mail

Peter Hitchens

I do worry about Archbishop Justin Welby. 

Does he know anything? Does he understand his own religion? 

There he lies flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar, regretting a massacre he didn’t carry out 100 years ago. 

It was pretty thoroughly condemned at the time, and its culprit was forced to resign.

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

Christianity is about recognising your own faults, Archbishop. 

Get some practice. Explicitly and fully apologise for your Church’s decision to publicly smear the great, late Bishop George Bell, now shown beyond doubt to be the result of a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court.

No need to lie on the floor.

Just say sorry for a foolish, unfair mistake, and the vanity that has prevented you from admitting it.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/10/justin-welby-apologises-in-name-of-christ-british-massacre-amritsar

“But can you apologise for the massacre of Bishop Bell’s reputation, Archbishop? We can all apologise for something we can do nothing about – that’s easy – but find it hard to apologise for something we can do something about. Matthew 7 v 5 applies to us all” ~ Richard W. Symonds

Welby “can apologise when it suits” ~ Peter Crosskey

“Now try saying sorry for your own mistakes, Archbishop…” – Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday

I do worry about Archbishop Justin Welby. 

Does he know anything? Does he understand his own religion? 

There he lies flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar, regretting a massacre he didn’t carry out 100 years ago. 

It was pretty thoroughly condemned at the time, and its culprit was forced to resign.

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

 

Archbishop Justin Welby laid flat on his face in the Indian city of Amritsar

Christianity is about recognising your own faults, Archbishop. 

Get some practice. Explicitly and fully apologise for your Church’s decision to publicly smear the great, late Bishop George Bell, now shown beyond doubt to be the result of a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court.

No need to lie on the floor.

Just say sorry for a foolish, unfair mistake, and the vanity that has prevented you from admitting it.

June 6 2019 – “Great Lives” [Bishop George Bell] – BBC Radio 4 Extra – 6.30pm to 7pm – Matthew Parris and Peter Hitchens

radio4

https://www.radiotimes.com/radio-programme/e/vys75/great-lives–s30-e1-george-bell/

Great Lives

George Bell

Series 30 – Episode 1 – George Bell

Thursday 6:30pm – 7pm BBC Radio 4 Extra

SUMMARY

Matthew Parris is joined by Peter Hitchens to discuss the life and career of bishop of Chichester George Bell, who condemned the blanket bombing of Germany in 1944, urging Britain to avoid acting as barbarically as the Nazis.

CAST & CREW

Presenter Matthew Parris
Contributor Peter Hitchens
Producer Miles Warde
Producer Kirsten Lass