Letter to the Right Honourable Jeremy Hunt MP

Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
House of Commons

September 24th 2018

Dear Mr Hunt,

I am writing about something which in many ways is a small matter, but it has big implications relating to justice generally.
It concerns the allegations made against the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester. The following quote from Peter Hitchens ably sums up the facts.

Under Archbishop Welby’s leadership, Bishop Bell was publicly denounced by his own Church as a paedophile after a miserable secret kangaroo court. The evidence against him was ancient, thin and uncorroborated, and no defence had even been heard. Yet, now that this process has been exposed as the unfair botch it was, the Archbishop still won’t accept he made a mistake” – Peter Hitchens [Mail on Sunday, Sept 9 2018]

I am writing to express my concern about the delay in implementing the Henriques and Carlile recommendations; a delay which is contributing to further miscarriages of justice.

The College of Policing policy book states: “At the point when someone makes an allegation of a crime, the police should believe the account given…”.
This 2016 policy statement is supported by a 2014 statement by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary: “The presumption that a victim should always be believed should be institutionalised”.

These 2014 and 2016 Police statements directly contravene the 2016 and 2017 recommendations of Sir Richard Henriques and Lord Alex Carlile:

Henriques Recommendations [1 & 2]- “Throughout both the investigative and judicial process those who make complaints should be referred to as ‘complainants’ and not as ‘victims’. The instruction to ‘believe a victim’s account’ should cease. Instead an officer interviewing a complainant should investigate the facts objectively and impartially and with an open mind from the outset”.

Sir Richard Henriques: “The policy of ‘believing victims’ strikes at the very core of the criminal justice process. It has and will generate miscarriages of justice on a considerable scale…Allegations have had a profoundly damaging effect upon the characters and reputations of those living and those deceased. In differing ways, those reputations…were shattered by the word of a single, uncorroborated complaint”.

Carlile Recommendations …

There is a danger of assuming that all complainants are victims, therefore accurate and truthful. An acceptable alternative, given the intimation of civil proceedings in this [Bishop Bell]case, would have been ‘claimant'”.

Lord Carlile QC: “In my judgement, this is a case in which the use of terms such as ‘survivor’ and ‘victim’ contributed to decisions which might otherwise have been scrutinised with greater critical examination…For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong”.

The professional approach is to neither believe nor disbelieve the complainant/claimant and their allegation. There is no right or entitlement to be believed, but there is a right and entitlement to be treated with respect.

May I urge you to take urgent action to ensure implementation of the Henriques and Carlile recommendations, so as to prevent further miscarriages of justice.

Thank you for giving consideration to this request.

Yours sincerely

Patsy Kettle