Conservative Christians Denounce “Bizarre” Consultation Between CPS and Police on Lord Carey

A letter in the Daily Telegraph:

Operation Yewtree and its successor Operation Hydrant have investigated hundreds of cases of suspected misconduct in public office and have yet to bring a case to trial.

For example, no one has been charged with any offence in relation to the misdemeanours of Jimmy Savile. The cases against Lord Bramall, Leon Brittan, Edward Heath and Cliff Richard were all dropped. Why is Lord Carey being targeted at this time? Certain public leaders appear to be being attacked by insinuation without due process.

The notion that a criminal case could be brought against Lord Carey is so bizarre that we can only surmise that the object of the persistent pressure that brings these public attacks is not only Lord Carey but what he represents of biblically faithful Christianity. An attack on him is an attack on us all.

The letter is signed by the Marquess of Reading (Simon Rufus Isaacs), Michael Nazir-Ali (former Bishop of Rochester), Colin Buchanan (former Bishop of Woolwich),  Vinay Samuel (Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life), Chris Sugden (Anglican Mainstream), Sarah Finch (Member of the General Synod), Andrea Williams (Christian Concern), Andrew Wingfield Digby (canon), Valerie Nazir Ali (bishop’s wife) and Paul Perkin (vicar).

George Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1990s, and it has been reported that “the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is discussing with Scotland Yard detectives whether to pursue criminal charges” on the grounds that he allegedly committed “misconduct in a public office” in how he dealt with allegations against Peter Ball, who stepped down as bishop of Gloucester in 1993 after accepting a police caution for “gross indecency”. Carey said privately that he believed that Ball was “basically innocent”, and he failed to pass on information from other complainants to the police. The result that was Ball was effectively rehabilitated in the years that followed, and the caution regarded as a dubious anomaly rather than as evidence of a pattern of predatory sexual behaviour. Ball eventually pleaded guilty to further offences in 2015, by which time one of his victims had committed suicide.

The letter in the Telegraph, it seems to me, is an ill-advised and self-serving intervention.

First, it’s factually sloppy: “misconduct in a public office” was one of the grounds on which Ball was convicted, but that was not through Operation Yewtree and “misconduct in a public office” was not the basis on which Operation Yewtree investigated sex abuse allegation. It’s an odd focus here that glosses over the fact that Yewtree, for all its failings, did in fact secure a couple of convictions (Max Clifford and the first trial of Rolf Harris). Further, the allegation against Lord Bramall (and one allegation against Leon Brittan) was dealt with as part of the Operation Midland fiasco; and while the ludicrous Operation Conifer, which investigated Edward Heath, turned out to be a damp squib, it ran its course rather than being “dropped” – the case could never have come to trial, because Heath is dead.

Second, given the many police excesses relating to Operations Midland and Yewtree, why are these public figures only stirred to say something about the subject now? The life-changing injustices suffered by innocent suspects (discussed e.g. here and here) has been a national scandal for several years, yet this does not appear to have been much of a “Christian concern” to date. Might homophobia have been an issue here? Andrea Minichiello Williams in particular has a history of promoting the idea that gay people are “linked” to child sex abuse, and it’s telling that the authors couldn’t bring themselves to place Harvey Proctor alongside Lord Bramall and Leon Brittan.

Third, the failed investigations referenced in the letter are in no way comparable to Carey’s predicament. Ball is a convicted sex offender who finally admitted his guilt, and there is no doubt that Carey was taken in by him and that this affected his decision-making. In mitigation, Ball enjoyed a strong presumption of credibility due to personal charisma and an outward appearance of saintliness, and he enjoyed the support of powerful figures (most notably, Prince Charles), but clearly the wrong decisions were made after his public disgrace in 1993. (1) I don’t claim to know if Carey’s mismanagement here amounted to an offence, but it’s not a denial of due process to consider the possibility.

Fourth, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that police interest in Carey is because of “what he represents of biblically faithful Christianity”, and the supposed contrast with nobody being “charged with any offence in relation to the misdemeanours of Jimmy Savile” is simple whataboutery. The claim is the sort of unattractive Christian-right victim narrative that Christian Concern in particular trades in.

It’s reasonable to be concerned that Operation Hydrant may simply see Carey as an easy target after so many high-profile Operation Yewtree failures, but such a point is obscured when Carey’s defenders resort to such overblown rhetoric.

(H/T Mark Woods, whose article “Why conservative Christians should stop defending George Carey” can be read here.)


(1) One conservative evangelical, Rev. Tony Higton, complained at the time that Carey had minimised Ball’s behaviour: see “Carey ‘made light of bishop’s sin'”, The Times, March 24, 1993).

3 Responses

  1. Misdemeanour: a minor offence or transgression.

    “For example, no one has been charged with any offence in relation to the misdemeanours of Jimmy Savile.”

    Not entirely correct as Ray Teret had a spurious “Jimmy Savile were there an’ all”-charge added to the sheet, despite the police previously explicitly stating that NO allegation related to Savile.

    While the jury convicted Teret of many things they found him not guilty of the Savile-related allegation – as close as Savile will ever come to being tried (and cleared).

    But regardless it IS of interest that no one else has been brought to book for Savile’s supposed ‘misdemeanours’; it is also notable than all of his supposed accomplices in serious acts of felony – doctors, management, police, mysterious men in suits, a royal or two, etc. – have escaped scot free… almost as if the astonishing acts of depravity never really happened at all.

  2. Williams did indeed say the things Lester Feder reported her as saying back in 2013. You can hear her in the closing minutes of her speech.

  3. […] Update Richard Bartholomew has published a further analysis of the letter: Conservative Christians Denounce “Bizarre” Consultation Between CPS and Police on Lord C…. […]

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