Peter Hitchens – Mail on Sunday – October 23 2016
This is NOT justice – it’s a witch hunt
The Great Child Abuse Inquiry continues to devour itself, in a storm of rumour and whispers. There is some justice in this.
The whole idea that this country is waist-deep in unprosecuted abuse scandals has always been based on allegations that cannot be objectively proved. Now this industry is the target of its own methods.
The whole country has become a vast kangaroo court, in which guilty and innocent alike are accused, and in many cases we can never find the truth.
For a year, I have been fighting the case of the late Bishop George Bell, whose courage and principle I have long admired, who was suddenly accused of long-ago child abuse by a solitary complainant, 57 years after his death. No other accusers have come forward.
To begin with, his own church, aided by several newspapers, the BBC and the police, acted disgracefully as if his guilt was proven. The police even said they would have arrested him if he hadn’t been dead, an absurd and meaningless statement which persuaded many he was guilty.
Now, thanks to relentless pressure by many good people, plus me, the BBC have honourably retreated, the police have softened their line, and the Church themselves have published a booklet about Chichester Cathedral in which they admit that the charges against Bishop Bell have never been tested in any court and are just ‘plausible’, a feeble word given that the accusation, if true, would strip away his good name for ever.
It’s not enough. But it took all the running we could do just to stay in the same place, returning to the old English custom that all are presumed innocent until guilt is proven. If the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary could grasp this point, their hopeless inquiry could be shut down before it soaks up the entire national budget and we could go back to proper British justice.https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/chichester-cathedral-september/
A former Derby clergyman and wartime code breaker has been accused of historical sex abuse against children.
Derek Buckley, a former honorary Canon of Derby Cathedral, allegedly abused two children in the late 1980s. The shock claims against Rev Buckley, who died at his home in Ashbourne in 1999 aged 82, have been raised with Derbyshire police and the Derby Diocese.
The allegations against him are forming part of a national police investigation into historical child sex abuse. Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer at legal firm Slater and Gordon, is representing the two alleged victims of Rev Buckley.
He said: “Very serious allegations have been made against the Derby Diocese. It is now important, not just for the survivors of abuse but society in general, that the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, examines these cases and broader failings of the Anglican Church and law enforcement agencies to protect children.
A spokesman for Derby Diocese, the body which runs Church of England churches in the city, said it was aware of the allegations.
He said: “The Diocese of Derby takes safeguarding very seriously and we have been working closely with the police since we were made aware of allegations. We promise to listen in confidence to anyone who comes forward with safeguarding concerns relating to the Church.”
Mr Scorer is representing a total of 51 alleged abuse victims giving evidence to the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which is being run by Professor Alexis Jay. The inquiry is investigating whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
Rev Buckley, a former pupil of Bemrose School began work as an apprentice electrical engineer at Celanese in Spondon. During the Second World War he was stationed at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire with the RAF and was involved in the top secret code-breaking exercise The Enigma Project.
At the age of 35 he began training for the Ministry and was ordained in 1955. He served as vicar of Church Broughton and Sutton-On-The-Hill.
He was made honorary Canon of Derby Cathedral in 1979, a title conferred on someone who has given faithful and valuable service to the church. He was made a hereditary Freeman of Derby and he retired in November 1983.
A spokesman for Derbyshire police said: “I can confirm that we had two reports against Cannon Derek Buckley of historical sexual abuse in the 1980s. As the accused is now deceased, there is no active investigation.”
Anyone with any information on historical abuse can contact the Diocese by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01332 388 678.
Church accused of “grave miscarriage of justice” in Bishop Bell case
By Antony Bushfield
A former chief constable’s led a group in criticising the Church of England for committing a “grave miscarriage of justice” by labelling the former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, a paedophile.
Lord Dear, who once led West Midlands Police, is joined by Labour MP Frank Field and Judge Alan Pardoe QC in a letter calling for a proper investigation.
They claim the Church did not interview key people before branding Bishop Bell a sex abuser.
In October 2015 the Church of England released a statement apologising to a woman who claimed she was abused by the respected Bishop Bell in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
It also paid compensation to the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Sussex Police has revealed it would have arrested Bishop Bell and interviewed him on suspicion of serious sexual offences had he still been alive.
A Church spokesperson said the decision to accept Bishop Bell was a paedophile was “not taken lightly or without consideration of the impact on the reputation of George Bell”.
The group supporting Bishop Bell has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asking him to apologise to Bishop Bell’s family and launch an investigation.
Frank Field MP, a former member of the Church of England General Synod, told the Sunday Telegraph: “There has been a grave miscarriage of justice here. The church acted in secrecy. We don’t know what the charges were, who were the authorities which made the judgment and how that judgment was arrived at.
“If this could happen to a man like Bishop Bell it could happen to someone who is unknown and does not have influential friends to fight for them. We need a much more robust system for dealing with this kind of allegation.”
A Church of England spokesperson said: “The decision to settle the civil claim relating to the activities of Bishop Bell and make a formal apology was not taken lightly or without consideration of the impact on the reputation of George Bell.
“However in this case, as in others, the overriding goal was to search out the truth and issues of reputation cannot take priority over that.
“Any suggestion that the reputation of the Church, or its ministers, should take precedence over the search for the truth is fundamentally misplaced.”
“POLICE SAY SORRY OVER BISHOP BELL” – CHICHESTER OBSERVER – AUGUST 4 2016 – PAGE 7
Sussex Police has said sorry to the living relatives of Bishop George bell.
Superintendent Jez Graves has written to journalist Peter Hitchens, who is acting on behalf of a surviving relative.
The Chichester Diocese last year settled a civil claim to a woman who said she was abused as a young girl.
Police said to the Observer: “Yes, the letter apologises because the force did not take steps to try to contact any living relatives of Bishop Bell, to let them know that the statement about our investigation was to be made public by the Church of England last October.
“However the letter does not apologise for the police investigation or for the statement itself. It apologises solely for our not trying to ensure in advance that any surviving relatives knew of our statement, which was included in the Church statement.”
Bishop Bell served as Bishop of Chichester until his death in 1958.
“BBC ADMITS TO ITS GREAT CREDIT : ‘WE GOT IT WRONG ABOUT BISHOP BELL'” – PETER HITCHENS – MARCH 3 2016
I am at last able to reveal that the BBC has, very much to its credit, and in contrast to many other media, regional and national, admitted that some of its reporting on the allegations against Bishop George Bell was wrong.
It has justly and properly accepted an argument I and others have made to several media, local and national.These media said that the late Bishop ’was’ a child abuser, without the qualifications normally used in reporting an unproven allegation. They were not entitled to do so, as no on-the-record statement or document justified this conclusion. ‘The Guardian’ has, as I have noted here earlier, specifically rejected this argument as has its ‘Review Panel’, a Scott Trust body which stoutly maintains its independence from the newspaper. Though the Panel has conceded , bizarrely, that it might have been better to use inverted commas around the claims that the Bishop ‘was’ an abuser. Indeed it might.
The summary of the conclusions of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has just gone up on the BBC website, and can be seen athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/comp-reports/ecu/southeasttoday051115. There’s also a report on the Corrections & Clarifications page athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications.
The ECU concluded that the Church’s original October 22nd statement (in my view the unjustified basis of much misleading reporting on the matter, as it made no assertion of guilt) ‘did not warrant reporting as a matter of fact that the allegations had been proven’
The key quotation in full is below:
‘The original statement by the church authorities had not explicitly said they believed Bishop Bell to have been guilty, but a subsequent statement said they had accepted the veracity of the allegations on the balance of probabilities. This, however, did not warrant reporting as a matter of fact that the allegations had been proven.’
I would add that in a letter to me on 28th January (which I have refrained from publishing until now because I was asked to keep it private till the final conclusion was published), Fraser Steel, the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints, said:
‘…Although the statement doesn’t say so in terms, it certainly implies that the church authorities have accepted that the allegations are true. That, however, is not the same as saying that Bishop Bell has been proven guilty of sexual abuse and, to the best of my knowledge, no information has been disclosed about the matter which might warrant the view that the allegations had in effect been proven, even though not through court proceedings.
‘I therefore agree that both the broadcast and the online piece were inaccurate in that respect.’ (my emphasis, PH)
AND THE CHURCH?