Letter from two former police officers in response to a letter by the Bishop of Bath & Wells: 12 February 2018

12 February 2018


The letter from the Bishop of Bath and Wells (Bishop Bell debate, Times 10 February 2018) shows that, sadly, the Church of England has learned  nothing either from its flawed handling of the Bishop Bell affair, or from the ensuing and critical Carlisle Report. Apart from a brief “state of play” update concerning the latest twist in the saga, the use of a single word in the letter epitomised the recent recalcitrant stance taken by those in  authority in the Church.

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, lead spokesman for the Church on safeguarding matters, states “we welcome survivors”. In the context of enquiries into any allegations of malpractice, and especially in cases of child abuse, it is imperative that those making the complaint are described as “complainants”, and treated as such, with sensitivity but impartially. The use of words such as “survivors, or victims” clearly identifies that those conducting the enquiry are prejudiced from the outset against the accused. It flies in the face of the principle that innocence is presumed until guilt is proven. Put another way – “the facts are of little consequence, my mind is already made up”.

The use of this biased terminology has long worried legal practitioners and was recently condemned by retired High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques QC when he reported on a number of flawed investigations including Operations Yew Tree and Midland.

The Church of England would do well to heed this, and conduct enquiries impartially and objectively. So too should police forces in this country, some of which have fallen into exactly the same trap in recent months.

Justice demands better than this.

Yours faithfully

Lord Dear, House of Lords, HM Inspector of Constabulary 1990 – 97

Michael Hames, Formerly Detective Superintendent, Metropolitan Police, Head of Paedophile Investigations 1989 – 94

*Sent to The Times but not published