Is freedom now only a slogan in Britain?

The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association.

In Britain we cherish our freedom. But if “freedom” is to mean anything other than an empty slogan, there must exist the means to guarantee it. We have such a guarantee and it is freedom under the law? Or do we?

The former Conservative MP Harvey Proctor is claiming £1m in damages from the Metropolitan Police after being falsely accused of child sexual abuse and murder. He is also taking legal action against his accuser - a man protected by the pseudonym “Nick.” Mr Proctor says the allegations and subsequent investigation by the Met resulted in his losing his job and home, and suffering from depression.

Scotland Yard said it would be defending the claim.

The investigation of the allegations made against Mr Proctor, known as Operation Midland, began in 2014 when Nick named Mr Proctor as one of a number of men who he claimed were part of an establishment paedophile ring in the 1970s and 1980s. Mr Proctor was cleared in 2016 when the Met said it had found insufficient evidence to consider any criminal charges. Scotland Yard apologised and a review of the case strongly criticised their investigation.

Mr Proctor's legal claim is that Nick's” allegations were “false and malicious” and designed to damage him in an attempt to pervert the course of justice. He claims police should have carried out “elementary research” to dismiss the allegations before taking any action. He is accusing the Met of conspiring with Nick and a news agency Exaro which first published the allegations and held meetings with detectives.

Mr Proctor's claim quotes the statement by a senior police officer in late 2014 that Nick's claims were “credible and true.” His legal claim details how police raised “child protection concerns” about him during the investigation and asked his employer - Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire - to suspend him. Belvoir forced Mr Proctor’s resignation and so he lost his home, which was part of his employment at the castle.

Since the investigation Mr Proctor has suffered what his doctor describes as a “major depressive episode.

Operation Midland was begun after Nick claimed boys had been sexually abused and that three had been murdered by a group of high-ranking men from politics, the military and law enforcement agencies. Retired judge Sir Richard Henriques later reviewed the investigation and found in it no fewer than forty-three serious failings, specifically that Nick had been believed for too long and that search warrants had been applied for using flawed information.

Incidentally, and quite apart from the Proctor case, “Nick is separately facing a trial in connection with six charges of possessing images of child abuse and voyeurism.

The Metropolitan Police has already paid damages to Lord Bramall, the former chief of the defence staff, and the family of Lord Brittan, both of whom were also accused by Nick,” investigated and cleared.

When I read about this case in today’s paper, I was reminded of something similar.

Bishop George Bell (1883-1958), Bishop of Chichester, was judged and condemned – more than half a century after the alleged events - by the Diocese of Chichester backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Scandalously, no case was brought for his defence. An elderly woman came forward in 1995 and claimed that Bishop Bell had sexually abused her fifty years earlier. The authorities took no action. The woman complained again in 2013, by which time Bishop Bell had been dead for fifty-five years. The police concluded that there was sufficient evidence to justify their questioning Bishop Bell, had he been still alive. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, discussed the matter with Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury ,and in 2015 the Church of England offered a formal apology to Bishop Bell’s accuser, paid her an undisclosed sum in compensation – now revealed to have been £31,000 - and allowed her to remain anonymous. Memorials to Bishop Bell were removed and institutions – such as the Bishop Bell School, Eastbourne – changed their names.

Subsequently, an enquiry by Lord Carlile found that there was no evidence against Bishop Bell and the police have dropped the case for the same reason. What remains outrageous about this disgraceful affair is that the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop have refused to abide by the findings of both Lord Carlile and the police. And they are still refusing officially to clear Bishop Bell’s name and to offer an apology to his family.

Tor return to the beginning: freedom under the law means that a person is adjudged innocent – and treated as such – unless and until he is proved guilty. But both Harvey Proctor and Bishop Bell have been treated as guilty even though lawful authority has declared they have no case to answer.

There is no freedom in this. It has become that vain thing, a hollow slogan.

 

All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.

Photo Credit: Alpha Stock Images - http://alphastockimages.com/

 

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