Church of England

Peace on earth and good will to all men – except the sacked bell-ringers of York Minster

“The bells! The bells!” cried Quasimodo, the hunchbacked bell-ringer of Notre-Dame de Paris in Victor Hugo’s quasi-fictional novel. He might have been sounding a prophetic child-safeguarding warning to the Church of England, what with the secret trial of Bishop George Bell and the summary dismissal of all the bell-ringers of York Minster. The sound (or silence) of bells is bringing the Church of England into disrepute.

The national press is hammering the scorn home, as much as scorn can be hammered: ‘Bell ringer ding-dong could see York Minster fall silent this Christmas for first time since 1361‘, jeers the Telegraph; ‘It’s silent night at York Minster as rivals support sacked bellringers‘, quips the Times; ‘Bellringers snub an invite to perform in a Christmas service at the world-famous York Minister in “solidarity” with volunteer ringers who were sacked without explanation‘, informs the Mail, in its inimitable way of writing a headline so you never need to read the actual article.

It’s wrong, too. The explanation for the mass dismissal is very much in the public domain. The Dean, the Very Rev’d Vivienne Faull, explained back in October: “Some members of the York Minster Society of Change Ringers have consistently challenged the Chapter’s authority on this and other important matters. Repeated disregard of the Chapter’s attempts to fully implement the Church’s national policies for safeguarding, health and safety and security meant that decisive action was required.” So, some bell-ringers were insubordinate, yet all 30 were summarily sacked. Sledgehammer? Nut? Bull? China shop? It’s about as subtle as a Jehovah’s Witness exposition of Trinitarian theology: it certainly doesn’t jingle the bells of justice or chime with peals of Christian charity, does it?

The bell-ringers’ grievance is also very much in the public domain (can’t the Mail use Google?): ‘How York Minster bellringers’ sacking blew the lid off bitter dispute‘, informs the Guardian; ‘York Minster Bells: Man at centre of safeguarding concerns is named‘, the people of York were told by the York Press.

So, it’s no real secret.

David Potter MBE (for services to campanology [this isn’t immaterial]) is the man at the centre of the Minster’s safeguarding concerns. He was York Minster’s master bell-ringer, with 30 years of loyal voluntary service to his credit (hence the MBE [this still isn’t immaterial]). All we know, according to the Guardian, is that allegations were made against him for child abuse:

In January 2000, days after Potter had been awarded an MBE for bellringing services over three decades, he was suspended as ringing master at York Minster and from his job as a teacher after claims of indecent assault. The following month, the police said he would not be charged.

Last year, Potter was the subject of another police investigation. “In June 2015 North Yorkshire police applied for a sexual risk order following concerns raised during multi-agency safeguarding processes about a 66-year-old York man and his contact with children,” the force said in a statement.

It is important to remember that suspension is a routine, neutral act, and also to note that the police brought no charges and the courts declined to issue a sexual risk order: David Potter has not been charged, still less found guilty of any crime. However, the Dean and Chapter of York Minster have taken a ‘no-smoke-without-fire’ approach and determined that he presents a very real and ongoing threat to children (or vulnerable adults), so he had to be subject to safeguarding measures. It must be acknowledged, of course, that the Dean and Chapter may have spied an awful lot more smoke than is wafting around in the public domain. We can’t know. But to ban David Potter from bell-ringing for life (which is the effect of this judgment), and then to sack all 30 of his fellow bell-ringers for insubordination, appears graceless and ham-fisted, to say the least.

To read that the consequence of this is that York Minster’s bells will fall silent at Christmas for the first time since 1361 brings the whole Church of England into disrepute. What must the world think of this at Christmas? What does this do for the church’s mission and witness at Christmas? Peace on earth and good will to all men – except the sacked bell-ringers of York Minster? Instead of rejoicing in the God who became man, the City of York grieves (the media scoffs and the nation despairs) over the bell-ringers who have been locked out of their bell tower (did the Dean really have to change the locks?). A ‘Minority Report‘-type pre-crime (or pre-sin) exclusion order, issued by the ‘pre-cog’ Dean and Chapter, has achieved what wars, plagues, massacres and storms could not: no Christmas bells at York Minster for the first time since 1361. David Potter MBE (..still material..) is deemed to present an ongoing risk to children: he has free will, but his crime and sin are predetermined by foreknowledge, and so no bells, no bells.

But let us reason that we’re not in full possession of the facts (beyond, that is, the fact that David Potter has never been charged with child abuse or indecent assault or found guilty in a court of law). In response to the ongoing media interest, the Very Rev’d Vivienne Faull has issued a further statement:


This update (rather unhelpfully) raises further questions.

It is difficult to make any credible assessment of the situation as the Dean and Chapter don’t make clear the processes they are using. The lack of clarity doesn’t help anyone (just as it didn’t and doesn’t with the postmortem in camera trial of Bishop George Bell). Justice must be seen to be done. Why can’t the Minster’s safeguarding team disclose the method/s they have used to assess the risk presented by David Potter MBE (..still material..)? There is no assurance given that any assessment includes a ‘no risk’ result (ie an acceptance of innocence). Mr Potter is unable to ring bells with children, young people or vulnerable adults, and this ends his bell-ringing career. Doesn’t that merit due process and transparent justice?

A church officer (such as David Potter MBE [..yes..]) is required to have both a Type A and Type B risk assessment. These may be found in the National Safeguarding Practice Guidance (Appendix 2, p29). Type B assessment is commissioned by the church with an independent risk assessor – the Lucy Faithful Foundation has been cited by the church to be such an assessor. If you read the Foundation’s website you will see that they deal mainly, if not totally, with offenders or self-confessed paedophiles. This strongly suggests that the assessment will be low, medium or high, but never ‘no risk’. You might then understand why an innocent person may be reluctant to engage in such a process – especially when the legal system has made no determination of guilt (or even of threat to child safety). From media reports, it appears that York Minster commissioned a risk assessment and also that David Potter MBE (..wait for it..) has been willing to take part in a risk assessment. Curiously, the Dean and Chapter make no mention of this.

If you follow the flow chart on p29 of the Guidance you will see that only “unfounded or malicious” allegations allow a church officer to be reinstated without safeguards. The church has not defined ‘unfounded’, and charges of ‘malice’ brought by the police are extremely rare. An outcome of ‘no further action’ by the CPS because of ‘insufficient evidence’ is the standard way of expressing an unfounded allegation, and the most likely way to express the outcome of a wrongful allegation. But the Church of England requires any ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations to be further assessed and risk management measures put in place. In practice, the church assumes guilt in all cases (except unfounded or malicious) and implements risk management strategies accordingly – even when an accused is cleared by the legal system.

There are, of course, insurance considerations: safety measures have to be put in place for such purposes if an allegation has been made. This may well be a significant factor, but one not readily related to publicly.

The Church of England’s overriding compulsion to jettison its workers in favour of self-protection suggests that promoting (or attempting to re-gain) its reputation is more important than upholding basic principles of justice. The church is sacrificing its present loyal workers and members in order to atone for its past sins and omissions.

Innocence has manifestly become a difficult concept for the church to handle in the area of child safeguarding. What happened to the common law presumption? While the church’s measures and guidelines are developing, there are few safeguards, if any, put in place to protect the innocent and wrongfully accused. David Potter MBE (…) has been caught up in the injustice of the church’s procedures and was supported by his bell ringers who also appreciated the unfairness. They acted like a quasi-jury: consider that these are 30 adult minds – not necessarily impartial, but certainly ‘good men and true’. The Dean and Chapter failed to persuade any of them that David Potter MBE (…) presented an ongoing risk to children. Some of them doubtless have children.

And so we must add the name of David Potter MBE (…) to those of Bishop George Bell, Bishop Michael Perham and Sister Frances Dominica, along with sundry unnamed and unknown others who are suffering indignity if not excommunication. In the fitful fever of paedomania, the mere allegation of child abuse has surpassed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin. While the Church of England becomes a safe place for children, it is hell for those wrongly accused of abuse. Pastoral care? What’s that?

But to David Potter’s MBE (for services to campanology.. for this isn’t immaterial).

The Dean and Chapter of York Minster have effectively banned David Potter from bell-ringing for life. Setting aside the breach(es) of natural justice in process omission(s) and/or prejudicial judgments (and the absurdity of dismissing the Minster’s entire 30-strong Society of Change Ringers), the Honours Forfeiture Committee is obliged to consider when someone honoured has “done something to damage the honours system’s reputation”:

For example, someone’s honour can be taken away if they are:

  • sentenced to prison for at least 3 months for a criminal offence
  • censured or struck off by a professional or regulatory body for something directly relevant to their honour (eg a doctor being struck off)

The Dean and Chapter of York Minster have struck off their lead campanologist, who was appointed MBE for services to campanology. He has been permanently banned from the Minster’s bell tower. Could the Very Rev’d Vivienne Faull please explain why Mr Potter ought not to be referred to the Honours Forfeiture Committee?

  • IanCad

    There is something rotten in our land. A peep, an innuendo, a repressed memory, and lives are ruined. These modern day inquisitors mean to have their prey. It is the fashion, it is the crock of gold that keeps giving to all the charlatans involved in the parasitic industry called child abuse.
    OK! OK! It happens; my bet is that it doesn’t happen in more one tenth of the alleged cases.
    There should be a maximum five year statute of limitations commencing at the age of consent. Justice is not served when dormant memories are compounded with fevered imaginations.

    • CliveM


      this is a very problematic issue and I don’t think I have the courage or necessary information to comment on the bell ringers, but I do disagree with a five year statute of limitations with regards sexual abuse.

      An abuser can go on for decades and to give a five year limit will enable them to continue with abusing other children. People will be less likely to come forward if they know they won’t be listened to as the limit has passed. In most cases children know who the abuser is (family or friend of family) and their memories can be relied upon for more than five years.

      • IanCad

        Note Clive; I did state the five years should start after the age of consent is attained. That would make the victim/accuser twenty one years old. If they’re not mature at that age they never will be. Life is not easy or fair, the earlier that realisation is reached the better.

        • CliveM

          Life might not be fair but we are talking child rape. We should be endeavouring too even it up, not make it worse.

          I suspect a child who has been raped or abused already knows it’s not fair.

          • IanCad

            We all know child molestation is wicked.

            “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck.” Mark 9:42

            And so is false accusation.

            “A false witness shall not go unpunished; and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.” Proverbs 19:5

    • “It happens; my bet is that it doesn’t happen in more one than tenth of the alleged cases.”

      Paddy Power would certainly take that bet and give you very long odds too.

      Why are you inferring the allegations against Potter are of a historical nature? Is this information in the public domain? Jack would be interested to learn more about the details of this but in the absence of this one has to trust the integrity of those charged with undertaking the investigations and risk assessments.

      And this does you no credit: “These modern day inquisitors mean to have their prey. It is the fashion, it is the crock of gold that keeps giving to all the charlatans involved in the parasitic industry called child abuse.”

      • carl jacobs

        one has to trust the integrity of those charged with undertaking the investigations and risk assessments.


        • Why not?

          These are qualified professionals – nurses, teachers, policemen, psychologists, social workers, etc. – privy to a wide range of reports and they arrive at decisions after many hours of assessments and investigations. Jack served for many years as an independent chair of these panels. It’s a delicate balancing act and where reasonable evidence exists of sexual abuse, or the threat of abuse, the paramount concern is protecting children from harm – not organisations from future litigation.

          • carl jacobs

            Why not?

            How about “Because people are evil and venal and self-interested and error-prone and susceptible to jumping to conclusions and subject to confirmation bias.”

          • Yes, people are “susceptible to jumping to conclusions and subject to confirmation bias.” That’s why professional experience and training is critical, as is the chairing of such meetings.

            And your alternative is what exactly?

            You do know the nature of child sexual abuse and the “evil and venal and self-interested” nature of it?

          • carl jacobs

            No, Jack. That’s why openess is critical – because even experienced and trained professionals can make serious mistakes of judgment. Or perhaps create willful perversions of justice. Or self-interested distortions of justice. My alternative is “Never accept a verdict when the evidence for that verdict amounts to nothing more than ‘Trust me.'”

          • “That’s why openess is critical – because even experienced and trained professionals can make serious mistakes of judgment. Or perhaps create willful perversions of justice. Or self-interested distortions of justice.”

            Or perhaps competent professionals actually get it right. Yes, mistakes happen, regrettably, both in underestimating and overestimating risk. Sometimes there is risk aversion and too much caution. But wilful or self interested distortions of justice?

            The evidence and decisions don’t rest on “Trust me”. As Jack said, these rest on experienced professionals weighting the evidence and the balance of probabilities when the Crown decides not to prosecute.

          • Why stop with children Jack? Why not have your “philosopher kings” adjudicate, extra-camera, all crimes and away with the court system you have determined to be insufficient? What about other vulnerable people; women, the disabled, minorities and eventually everyone else, as everyone now seems to be able to fit into some protected, special category?

        • ChrisD324

          It’s a variant on Machiavelli’s “Put not your trust in Princes, bureaucrats or generals . . . . .”

      • IanCad


        I see nowhere in my comment where I implied that the allegations were either historical or current.

        As to your last paragraph; perhaps I deserve no credit, I should have posted it in bold, italics, all-caps and underlined.

        We need to learn from the USA; they, as is their wont, always do things to the utmost.



  • As a bell ringer at my local parish church, I would like to make a few comments.
    1. Looking at a photograph of the ringers published in the national media, it would appear that there are no young ringers, so why is safeguarding an issue?
    2. Very few bells would be rung around the country if all ringers had to have safeguarding clearance, not because there are safeguarding problems but because many would be simply unwilling to go through the bureaucratic process. Only one ringer at our tower has safeguarding clearance as she works with children, but even that clearance is only valid for her normal work.
    3. It takes 3-6 months, on the usual basis of one practice night per week, to teach a learner to ring a bell alone, and a further few months to ring in time with others. To ring with others means having other capable ringers available who can ring steadily.
    4. As someone who normally rings on 6 or 8 bells, I would find it hard, if not impossible, to ring on the 12 bells as at York, to become a good 12 bell ringer requires years of practice.
    5. Trying to get the Leeds (or any other) ringers to ring at York means depriving another church of their ringers as most service times are very similar and most towers are struggling to maintain a viable band. Hardly a Christian attitude.
    6. If nothing else, the Dean should explain how she is going to get a 12 bell band up and running in three months except by poaching ringers from elsewhere.

    • Arden Forester

      I doubt very much if Mrs Faull has an answer to question 6. She appears to be far more of a clerical jobsworth. This is all very unfortunate but is not unusual in the modern CofE.

  • did the Dean really have to change the locks?

    It would appear to be in her nature: Sentamu, in giving the Dean his ‘strongest backing’, tells us that ‘She follows procedures by the letter, she’s more rigid than some people.’

    Sentamu adds that the bell-ringers ‘rung those bells when I came here as archbishop’.

  • Inspector General

    “The Church of England’s overriding compulsion to jettison its workers in favour of self-protection suggests that promoting (or attempting to re-gain) its reputation is more important than upholding basic principles of justice. The church is sacrificing its present loyal workers and members in order to atone for its past sins and omissions.”

    Can’t fault you at all, Cranmer. The Dean’s position is no longer tenable. Resign madam, resign now!

    In the name of God, go. Go now, this instant… before the day is ended…

  • Anton

    Jack sees more nuances of these situations than most of His Grace’s respondents. I await his view once he’s back from Mass.

    • Jack has no “nuanced” view on this. He supports the actions of the Dean and Chapter of York Minster. Children’s safety is paramount and more important than the protests of a quasi-union of indignant bell ringers, the core of which is reported to be members of Potter’s extended family. They ring their bells in service to God, not in solidarity with one of their own.

      “An outcome of ‘no further action’ by the CPS because of ‘insufficient evidence’ is the standard way of expressing an unfounded allegation, and the most likely way to express the outcome of a wrongful allegation.”

      Not an accurate statement. The evidence necessary to secure a criminal conviction demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Often in situations of child sexual abuse this is not available for a variety of reasons although investigations indicate such abuse is highly probable to have taken place.

      • Anton

        I was paying you a compliment regarding the nuances! And it still stands.

  • ecclesiaman

    Despite all the detail in His Grace’s post I think there is insufficient to decide if Mr Potter deserves being banned. If he was prepared to be interviewed By the Lucy Faithful Foundation that suggests the decision was made too early and reflects badly on the C of E. However if you have time to look at the voluminous documents regarding Child Protection/Safeguarding (Not to mention those relating to Vulnerable Adults, and WE ALL are those by definition in certain circumstances) we have a surfeit of rules and regulations, a lawyers paradise indeed. I pity the C of E and all Churches, Fellowships and Christian and secular organisations who are subject to these draconian conditions to fight their way through such onerous procedures. I think George Carey was of the same mind.
    It may be that York could have handled this better but I have sympathy with anyone trying to implement Safeguarding in any church big or small. Even a Church that has NO children has to have a Safeguarding policy. Have a look at the CCPAS guidance and see that you need a lawyer to pilot your way through what is expected and an army of administrators.
    To quote St Paul and Hebrews, the (mosaic) law could not deal with sin, and neither can our statutory bodies, they do the best they can to minimise it.

  • carl jacobs

    This is what happens when lawyers get involved. They transfer the cost from the institution to the individual. Is the individual guilty or innocent? It doesn’t matter. The institution is protected either way. And what of the reputation of the individual? The lawyers aren’t paid to bother with that detail. Anyways. The resulting harm to the individual’s reputation isn’t a bug. It’s the point. That infliction of harm is the means by which the institution protects itself.

    You can see the logic. Assume 100 people are accused yet without any legal charges being filed. Assume further that 99 are innocent and one is guilty. If the guilty party re-offends and is caught, the 99 will not be noticed. All that will be seen is that the institution did not act against a known threat. So for the sake of the one, the 99 must suffer. The only thing that could change this logic is some admission that would legally exonerate the institution from liability – say, an admission by the accuser that the charges were false.

    It’s one of the things lawyers get paid to do. Sure, the institution dresses it up as concern for the vulnerable. But it’s really nothing more noble than raw self-interest. “How do we keep the CoE from getting sued?”

    As it is written: Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the Church of England, not that the whole church should perish. John 11:50 CoE Version

    • In all the years Jack participated in this decision making on behalf of local authorities in assessing staff suspected of child abuse, not once did he consider the implications of them being sued – not once. And he never picked up any suggestion this was a preoccupation on the part of the organisation or others participating in the process.

      Child sexual abuse by trusted adults in all walks of life is real.

      • carl jacobs

        No, I’m sure you wouldn’t have. What do you suppose gets said to lawyers behind closed doors? I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday, Jack. And neither did you.


        • Don’t judge everybody by American standards. There’s big bucks available there for claiming abuse and, more often than not, out of court settlements. Local authorities have their own lawyers and in Britain these are present during most of the local authority processes. In Jack’s view, they were as concerned about the reasonableness and justice of the decisions as other participants and balancing this with the protection of children.

          • You are resorting to “whataboutism”, Jack. On the average, I would say (with reluctance and sadness) that at this point in history, the American justice system is healthier because it is independent of outside authorities, like the EU, because of its democratic Congressional system which legislates and provides oversight and due to the variety of judicial bodies due to the number of independent entities…the states within a federation.

          • Both America and Canada have their own child protection systems.

    • David

      Well thought through and expressed Carl.

  • “Teaching bellringing involves physical proximity. “The learner is encompassed physically while learning to pull the ropes. Navigating the accepted limits and boundaries of physical contact can be difficult,” said one vicar who has had to deal with safeguarding issues within his bellringing team.”

    A relevant consideration.

    • David

      Yes, good point.
      I was a bell ringer in my youth. I conform that the instructor has to stand above, with arms around, the novice ringer, and hands lightly holding the rope, which the novice must also hold, all to show them how its done; but at a split second’s notice the instructor has to be able to save both the novice and the bell-stay from damage by seizing, taking total control of the rope, to check its velocity of rotation, especially towards the top of its travel.
      Introducing the new ringer to the complex art of ringing is inevitably, a body close to body, physical process – there is no other safe way – issuing instructions from the other side of the bell tower simply would not give the novice both the sense of rhythm and fine control over, what is, a very heavy piece of rapidly moving metal rotating just above your heads.
      Moreover bell towers are busy places full of rapidly coiling and uncoiling lengths of rope that can all too easily wind themselves around the limbs of the inattentive and unwary! It is not so much a classroom but more akin to the crowded gun deck of a wooden ship on the attack.
      At the end of a long “changes” session most tower teams go not to the tranquility of the traditional type rural service, but to the local hostelry, to relieve their tensions. Bell ringers tend to worship God through what they do and proclaim, and not by conventional worship.

      • Claire Bean

        In my experience, new ringers are not taught with the instructor with arms around the novice ringer – I have only ever seen new ringers taught standing face to face with the instructor, with the instructor standing on small box where necessary to be able to control the bell from above the point the novice is controlling the rope, so the only physical contact is occasionally from their hands if they both happen to catch the sallie at the same point. Maybe the process is different in larger towers which have more space around each rope, but in many towers there is no space for an instructor to stand behind a novice.

        • David

          OK. I suppose that as each tower is differently shaped and sized, with different numbers and therefore spacing of the ropes, teaching practice has to adapt to the local conditions. Where I was taught, in a six bell small, but not cramped, rural church tower, it would have been impossible to the instructor to stand in front of the novice, as you’ve described, as they would have constantly received the full force of the returning sallie on their heads !

        • That’s how my daughters and I learnt to ring. The instructor stood facing us, ready to catch the rope if we missed it.

    • I have my doubts if they teach any ringers at York Minster, most are taught in 6 or 8 bell towers and move to towers with more bells once they are competent ringers, usually at the invitation of the band.

  • John

    Safeguarding is a heavy and tiresome administrative burden and mostly (because most people are entirely innocent) a monumental waste of time. But the Church, like other institutions, has got this badly wrong in the past and cannot now afford to whinge about the inconvenience or curtailing of personal liberty. You have to cooperate with sometimes draconian measures designed to protect children and vulnerable adults from evil perverts or you cannot serve anymore. Full-stop.

    • carl jacobs

      And you do that by publicly labeling someone a child abuser on the basis of … nothing whatsoever? If there is evidence, put it in the public domain.

      • Inspector General

        Keep it up Carl. We are nothing without a presumption of innocence.

      • If only that was permissible. Jack could recount many examples of undoubted gross abuse against children where the CPS declined to prosecute and yet proceedings in children’s courts upheld the findings because of the different standards of proof. It’s nigh on impossible to secure a conviction based solely on the word of a child without corroborating evidence. Such is the evil nature of child sexual abuse.

        • carl jacobs

          So you want people convicted by secret prosecutions in secret courts. And to those of us who ask “Cui bono?” you say “Trust us.”

          • They are not “convictions” or “secret prosecutions”, Carl. They are civil actions and safeguards designed to minimise risk to children by impartially reviewing assessments and evidence.

            If, as a parent, on the basis of a reasonable suspicion, or a disclosure by your child, you considered an adult a tangible threat to your child would you permit free access to him or her? And, if you informed the authorities, would you be consent with them saying there is insufficient proof to secure a conviction and there’s nothing they can do?

            What alternative do you suggest?

          • carl jacobs

            Jack, if there is evidence against this man that sustains the charge on the basis of preponderance of the evidence, then release it. That’s what I suggest. Don’t ask me to just accept the word of a self-interested institution when it says it is behaving virtuously. This is what happened to Bishop Bell. He was convicted by a secret court on the basis of alleged evidence that “could not be revealed”. Was he guilty? Who cares? The CoE buried the issue and that is all that mattered. Was it a legal court? No. Did it matter? No. His reputation was destroyed. But the CoE didn’t suffer any damage.

            You know the things I just wrote are true. This isn’t child protection. It’s character assassination for the sake of institutional preservation. And it will remain so until they reveal the basis of their decision.

            The accused deserves protection as well.

          • “This is what happened to Bishop Bell.”
            This isn’t the same as Bishop Bell. This is about preventative processes put in place to protect children from future risk.

            “Jack, if there is evidence against this man that sustains the charge on the basis of preponderance of the evidence, then release it.”

            We are talking about situations where there is insufficient evidence to go to trial but sufficient to convince a professional body a danger exists. So, really, you want trial by public opinion.

            And as a parent, Carl? You didn’t answer that question. Jack would be furious with a Church, or any other body, who had an awareness of a threat to one of his children and took no action to offset it.

          • And as a parent, Carl? You didn’t answer that question. Jack would be furious with a Church, or any other body, who had an awareness of a threat to one of his children and took no action to offset it.

            And this is the sentiment that disqualifies you or any agency that has any power from any activity that may affect lives of the accused, Jack. By all means, advocate and recommend for victims…a just approach, even if an easy one with popular causes… but the only admissible zeal for cases before the courts should be a zeal for the integrity of the law, the courts and an equal, transparent and dispassionate applicatiion of our laws.

          • Your child tells you they’ve been abused. There is credible supporting evidence but it is not conclusive. Additionally, it is determined giving evidence would traumatise your child. The CPS doubts it can secure a conviction. Are you saying nothing should be done?

          • Being a father yourself, Jack, you may well imagine the kinds of thoughts that may run through my head at the notion that someone has even been rude to our fourteen year-old daughter…and the kind of things I’d like to be able to do about it. But this is why we have laws, judges and juries and if I were to over-step the law, well, hopefully my state of mind will earn me a little bit of mercy at the sentencing hearing. I have no right to hope for more.

            And no, I didn’t say that nothing should be done, but that it should be done properly, within the principle of equality of all crimes before the law.

          • Jack’s not talking about the workings of your imagination but actual credible disclosures by children. What should be done if the Crown will not prosecute for the reasons Jack has given?

          • You misunderstood my first sentence, Jack. To put it in another way, the aggrieved or outraged parties should not take the law into their own hands, nor determine the kind and amount of legal protection the accused receives, nor the severity of the penalty.

            And what we are debating is what constitutes a credible disclosure, and no, I don’t know what should be done if the Crown is unable to prosecute, but I’m confident that all those thousands of very smart folks who draw very lush salaries and look forward to very comfortable pensions would be able to suggest a few things which wouldn’t compromise our legal principles.

          • So, no actual suggestions for protecting children from sexual predators, just criticism of those who endeavour to when the criminal justice system proves incapable of doing so.

          • That’s right, Jack, I have no useful suggestions because I’m not a lawyer. If you want me to speculate, though, I’d say that ways to make the entire system more open and transparent, with greater oversight and with meaningful penalties for administrative miscreants would be a good direction to start on.

          • Neither is Jack a lawyer. More open and transparent in what ways? And how do you balance this with child and family privacy? There is oversight of the safeguarding system. The local authority panels and their workings are subject to regular reviews by independent scrutiny bodies. And, if a professional person deliberately misused the system or showed incompetence, then there certainly are penalties.

          • If you say so? Your general description of a great system has to be taken on faith due to its closed loop design, secrecy and job protections…wherein the problem lies. We know that the examples of miscarriage of justice are the tip of the iceberg, as most of them have surfaced thanks to the work of a few aggrieved parties and interested journalists, not so much from these “independent scrutiny bodies.” We also know that bills have died on the steps of a few parliaments, mostly because these threatened the interests of the agencies and their employees. It’s the cost of unionization of our public “servants.”

          • ….. and we also know many children are grossly abused, some brutally murdered, because the professionals did not respond to clear signs of abuse.

          • True. This is the limit of any system; it cannot provide perfect protection for all, everywhere and at all times. The guilty sometimes go free, evil doesn’t always lose. It’s a theological quandary as well. We do our best and we are at our best when we adhere to the basic principles of our justice system

          • carl jacobs

            Who needs to change things when the current system is so effective? “Kill the innocent lest the guilty go free.” What could possibly go wrong?

          • Again, no suggestions. You’re fixated on of the rights adults and not on children.

          • carl jacobs

            I have made the same suggestion several times. On multiple posts. It’s very simple. Public records for public decisions. There should be no statements like that made in the letter included in the OP. There should be no vague statements about feeling the person presents a risk.

            And technically I am focused on the right of the accused to a public hearing.

          • Sarky

            Should not take the law into their hands??
            If anyone touched my kids they’d need a body bag not a judge.

          • That was my point, Sarky. Sure, I cannot guarantee to be on good behaviour in face of an unthinkable situation. But I cannot argue that this is what I should be doing, nor can I rightfully object when the police and courts do their job.

          • Martin


            And do you not harm your own by your immorality.

          • Sarky


          • Martin


            Wrong answer. You are the greatest harm to your children.

          • Sarky

            No Martin. Small minded idiots like you are.

          • Martin


            Wrong again. You’re not too good at this, are you.

          • carl jacobs

            As a parent, I am a partisan. The law is supposed to be neutral. The partisan isn’t supposed to dictate to the law.

          • Anton

            Are you perhaps resting a little too heavily on what is and isn’t the law? Laws of nations can change, after all, whereas right and wrong don’t.

          • carl jacobs

            I’m resisting the idea that a man could be professionally and personally destroyed on the say so of a “professional body” that is devoid of public accountability. We have jury trials for a reason. Secrecy begets corruption. The longer it goes on the more unaccountable and arrogant these bodies will become. Eventually they will be transformed into tools of political coercion.

          • The judiciary already is a tool of political coercion.

          • John

            I used to have contempt for claims of this sort, but the Ashers Bakery ruling convinced me it is correct.

          • No, but somebody has to represent the child and as a parent you would want to be sure they were doing so. Sex abusers are notoriously manipulative and

          • No, but someone has to represent the child. The safeguarding system is not designed to be neutral. It is intended to protect children. Where there is doubt, unlike criminal proceedings, it will err on the side of the child. Sex abusers in particular are notoriously manipulative and skilled at covering their tracks.

          • carl jacobs

            Fine. Do that. Just make the decision in the open. Don’t make vague statements about feeling that the person presented an ongoing risk. All you have to do is make the evidence a matter of public record, and I will be satisfied.

          • “Don’t make vague statements about feeling that the person presented an ongoing risk.”

            These decisions are nether “vague” nor based on “feeling”.

          • carl jacobs

            Did you read the letter above?

          • The statement? Yes, Jack read it.

          • carl jacobs

            Well, that’s the kind of vague non-specific statement that shouldn’t be allowed. Because a cynic like me is going to say “They won’t disclose because it’s hard for the accused to fight against unknown information.”

          • He’ll have been interviewed and will know the nature of the concerns. He just won’t have been able to be present at the meeting to challenge the judgements of others or to mount a defence with legal representatives. No one claims the system meets the standards of natural justice. It’s the best option available to safeguard children.

            Strange you attack this but will defend torture and the unlawful kidnapping and the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists.

          • carl jacobs

            This isn’t the same as Bishop Bell.

            It’s exactly the same. A non-accountable church body renders a verdict on a man and says “Trust us. Would we lie to you?”

            So, really, you want trial by public opinion.

            No, I want the decision of the professional body held to public account.

            As a parent, I would. But there would have to be credible evidence. And that evidence should be put on display. That way there is no misunderstanding. I as a parent should not be allowed to see non-credible evidence, and the church should not make decisions upon it. You seem to think of the fallout to those falsely accused as collateral damage.

          • “But there would have to be credible evidence.”

            Define credible evidence and the standard of proof you would apply.

          • carl jacobs

            How about two witnesses? How about a witness and physical corroboration? How about means, motive, and opportunity? How about anything besides an accusation and some phycologist’s assessment about whether the child is telling the truth. You are very close to saying an accusation equals guilt.

            As for the standard, apply what you like. Just don’t apply it in secret. I’m not going to believe it just because it comes from a self-declared professional body.

          • Two witnesses to a crime conducted in secret? Physical corroboration when none exists. If th

          • carl jacobs

            And the decisions do not rest on whether a psychologist believes the child.

            I don’t believe that for one second.

            If an institution is going to destroy a man’s reputation in public, that institution is obligated to prove its case in public. If that means the proceedings must be open, so be it. If the decision can be kept private, then the justification can be kept private.

            What you cannot have is a situation where public reputation is destroyed by private data simply because you wish to protect the alleged victim. To do that is to attribute guilt without providing the ability to face one’s accuser. Your entire argument is predicated upon:

            1. An assumption of guilt.
            2. An unjustified faith in secret deliberations of professional bodies.

          • Don’t overegg it, Carl. What you believe and don’t believe is neither here nor there.

            Most of these safeguarding decisions are not made public and, if they are, it is most often by the person subject to their conditions. They can, and often are, implemented with discretion. And if one loses one’s job, there is the option of an employment tribunal where the whole process is thoroughly examined. No one obliged David Potter to inform others why he would be stopping is bell ringing.

            In your critique, not once have you addressed protecting children from the scourge of abuse and how this can be done in a way that encourages them and their parents to come forward. You’d be surprised at how many parents are extremely reluctant to expose their children to police and social work enquiries that are aimed at convicting to protect other children. By their nature, they can be damaging to children and adversarial court proceedings can compound the harm.
            To repeat: there is no assumption of guilt and the professional discussions and decisions, in Jack’s experience, are conducted in a spirit of fairness to all concerned.

          • carl jacobs

            … in Jack’s experience …

            That’s the whole point, right there. I won’t take your word for it.

            Jack, I’ve only made one point on this thread. I’ve made it over and over again. As far as I’m concerned, you can make the system as child-protective as you like. Just don’t do one thing.

            Don’t make public decisions like this in private.

            Don’t tell me there are good reasons for it. I don’t care. If you ask me to triage, I will say that due process is more important.

          • Then you’ll let countless children be abused.

          • carl jacobs

            By making decisions public?

          • It’s not the decision you want made public, it’s the information shared and the assessments undertaken. And, you want them to be subject to some sort of unspecified public accountability.

          • carl jacobs

            Yeah. Reactionary me. If you are going to say “This man is a child abuser even if the state can’t legally prove it in a criminal court, so you should treat him accordingly” then you damn well better put the evidentiary basis of your statement in the public record.

            Why are you so afraid of public disclosure?

          • The decision would be that there is sufficient concern to conclude this man poses a potential risk to the safety of children and measures are necessary to offset this threat. And the decision isn’t publicly released or made public. It’s shared with safeguarding advisers in particular organisations. It was David Potter who made the noise in this case and his phalanx of extended family members who are bell ringers.

          • Albert

            What you cannot have is a situation where public reputation is destroyed by private data simply because you wish to protect the alleged victim.

            Isn’t the real concern here that they are really protecting the church?

          • Martin


            Psychology is a so called science based on stories more than reality. I wouldn’t trust a psychologist to tell me the time.

          • Interesting …..

          • Martin


            So how could anything that claimed to examine men’s minds yet ignored what God has said to be other than a fraud?

          • God has forbidden the study of how our minds work?

          • Martin


            You aren’t going to learn anything of how the mechanism works if you reject what the designer has said.

          • Little Black Censored

            For goodness sake, will you stop referring to yourself so pompously in the third person.

          • They are civil actions and safeguards designed to minimise risk to children by impartially reviewing assessments and evidence.

            And the fake “ritual abuse” craze of the 80s by corrupt prosecutors and protection agencies? The presumption of guilt in in-camera civil courts, threats to remove children for non-compliance, documented cases of coaching of children by politicised social workers? Impartial reviewers? How do we identify union and association-protected careerists with “flexible” principles, ideologues or plain old billable time scroungers?

            What about the process itself as a punishment of the accused, where he is separated from family and pauperised with mounting legal bills and disruption of his ability to work? How do we know the magnitude of this problem without an open over-sight system and without strict adherence to the principle of open courts and presumption of innocence?

          • There are problems with every human system, Avi. The child protection system has developed over many decades on the basis of countless reviews and inquiries where children have been failed by the criminal justice system and the child welfare system. Family matters involving children are deemed unsuitable for being heard in open court for very good reasons. And there is no assumption of guilt, just a lower standard of proof.

          • There are problems with every human system, Avi.

            Of course there are, and our common legal system contains principle and checks to minimize this. What you are defending is an exemption from this system.

            The child protection system has developed over many decades on the basis of countless reviews and inquiries where children have been failed by the criminal justice system and the child welfare system.

            Spare me the agency PR, Jack. A system is only as good as its people today, and measures to avoid transparency have nixed any possibility to even comment on it.

            Family matters involving children are deemed unsuitable for being open court for very good reasons.>/i>

            Deemed by whom and why unsuitable? There have been scores of recommendations to make the system more transparent, while protecting privacy of those before it and none have been adopted.

            And there is no assumption of guilt, just a lower standard of proof.

            Of course there is an assumption of guilt; the accused is pressured to present exculpatory evidence to the accusing agency and the court and comply with the agency’s demands even before the civil trial begins.

          • Civil child care proceedings are subject to appeal and to judicial review. Jack is unaware of any workable alternative to the current system. Perhaps you could suggest one.

            Never heard of bail conditions in Canada?

          • chiaramonti

            Most Family Courts allow members of the public to attend. There may be aspects of a case during which they may be excluded and there are restrictions on identifying individuals in media reporting but there are no ‘secret courts’ dealing with such issues. As you say, Jack, there is no presumption of guilt; allegations are accepted on the balance of probability, not the higher standard required in a criminal case. In practice, the evidence in most cases would meet the criminal standard – but there is no jury in a family case, the judge sits alone, so some allegations do not reach the criminal courts because it is thought that a jury hearing the same evidence would not convict.

          • carl jacobs

            Then you should have absolutely no trouble pointing to the public record that justified the CoEs decision about this man. Where would that be?

          • Anton

            So Avi, you know that ritual abuse is fake? Various people in public service “know” that it isn’t. I’m not interested in witnessing a dispute between you and them, but I *am*interested in what you’d say to Carolyn Bramhall (who I’ve met) and Ruth Dee, respectively a Christian and an atheist, who give detailed book-length testimonies of surviving such horrors (their books are called “Am I a good girl yet?” and “Fractured” respectively); or to Doreen Irvine (who knew a late friend of mine) and Audrey Harper, women who hooked into such groups and managed to break free of them (their books are respectively called “From witchcraft to Christ” and “Dance with the devil”). Please don’t try to judge these books from the incredibly polarised Amazon reviews; if you are interested – and I recognise that you might not be – then please read them for yourself.

            You are aware, I take it, that ritual elements of abuse regularly crop up in police investigations, but the police, who are bemused at these things, and equally at the wilder Christian groups who say it’s ubiquitous, regularly tell witnesses in court cases to stick to testimonies of sexual abuse, as juries won’t believe ritual stuff?

            The part of any reply in which I’d be most interested is what you’d say to Bramhall, Dee, Irvine and Harper.

          • Why would I have anything to say to these individuals, Anton? I’m neither an investigator nor a therapist. Suffice it to say that reviews of these cases determined that the fantastic events described did not, and in fact could not have happened. The cases were reviewed by courts, under much greater public and professional scrutiny and dozens of people were absolved after years suffering and destroyed lives and families.

          • Anton

            Could it be that you don’t want to say anything to those four people because their personal testimonies contradict your views? So do the following convictions in English courts (not a comprehensive list):

            Two couples in Telford, Shropshire were convicted on November 9th, 1982 of a series of sexual and physical assaults on children conducted during satanic rituals. An inverted cross was carved on the body of one girl.

            A man was convicted at the Central Criminal Court in London on July 23rd, 1987 of the sexual abuse of 15 children, whom he assaulted on an altar dedicated to Satan with a pentagram drawn in blood on the floor.

            On August 8th, 1990 a man was convicted at Worcester Crown Court after admitting two specimen charges of sexual intercourse with underage girls, whom he had terrified with satanist rituals.

            On July 3rd, 1992 a man was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for
            the frequent rape of his niece; the court was told of a “black magic room” with an altar and items of ritual paraphernalia.

            On March 11th, 2011 four people were convicted at Swansea Crown Court of more than 20 sexual offences against children conducted as part of satanic rituals.

            Their names are in the public domain.

          • Lots of people’s claims, contradict my views and I rarely feel an urge to hold what would be utterly pointless discussions with them, Anton. It’s an epistemology issue; I believe that when in doubt about facts, one needs to assess them in the aggregate, from a distance and by taking into account the greatest number of reliable information sources. Emotional testimonies by individuals may provide some value, but only in context of the bigger picture.

            The origins and outlines of the “satanic panic” craze are clear; at ground zero were a 1980s book on “repressed memories (a related quackery), and a string of accusations against child care workers in a southern California preschool. The panic spread quickly, became international and took at least a decade to subside, with scores of people being slowly cleared by the courts, while a few others remained caught up.

            Two things are clear. The first is that while the panic began with pseudoscience and general nuttery, the main driver was the social services sector which, for a brief time at least, dragged the police and the judiciary into this phantasmagoria. There are many books on this, and most focus on the growth of child protection agencies and the formal and systemic adoption of the idea is that whatever a rape or a child victims utters must be treated as truth.

            The second thing is that appearances can be deceiving and can easily lead to the wrong conclusions. Since the post-War years there has been a significant interest in the occult (e.g., your theosophers, Colin Wilson, etc.), witchcraft, Satanism and a whole host of made-up fads which probably emerged because rural traditions and Christianity went on a free-fall. Undoubtedly quite a few of the abusers dabbled in the occult…and of course many did not. This, of course, doesn’t mean that there is an international conspiracy of Satanists who ritually abuse children.

            What we can learn from this late 20th century craze is not that we need another misdirected witch hunt driven by lurid (and lucrative) accounts in the popular media, but that we need to keep an eye on the quality of our social services personnel and the integrity of our police and judicial bodies.

          • magnolia

            The fact that the two words “satanic” and “panic” rhyme seems to have been used to try to bolster an opinion. But it is a shallow though deliberate misuse of the way that rhyme encourages us to tie two ideas together. People have been misled into disbelieving that these things don’t happen and anyone who claims these things sometimes happen is lying. Occasionally they will be. But I consider usually not. Very few children want to make up really really sick details that could get them into deep trouble. Most children want out of trouble from adults, not to increase the risk.

          • “Satanic panic” was a just a catchy, and a very good, journalist term, not a conspiracy to brainwash people. The panic has been covered extensively over many years and by many people. Children rarely make up sick details, unless they are coached by sick adults in authority, and this is what emerged.

          • Anton

            Cached by sick adults in *every* case? But you hadn’t even heard of the cases I specified in England…

          • Are we arguing about the same thing? I mentioned the Satanic ritual abuse allegation wave in the 80s, you started dropping names of victims or alleged victims in the UK. Neither disqualifies the other. The abuse mania pointed to a massive miscarriage of justice; individual cases or claims show that some perps are cultists or mentally ill.

            If we take your argument to its logical ends, then we can also say that on the basis of a few a few books by a handful of wrongly accused or people making such claims, we can conclude that our jails are filled with innocents.

          • Anton

            Glad you are now willing to countenance the possibility that it goes on!

          • Anton

            The two survivors I named gave plenty of evidence that was not based on recovered-memory, and of course the two people I named who had been involved in it were not like that either. If you think their accounts are untruthful, I suggest you say so directly rather than waffle about context. On top of which you suggested that no evidence passed the courts’ test of rigour, and I gave a good deal of evidence of that sort to you. Now you move the goalposts. It’s pointless for me to persist if you are prepared to do that. Please ponder *why* you are prepared to move the goalposts.

          • I have no about idea whether these people, in whom you seem to have invested some passion, are truthful or not. I’m not an investigator or a psychiatrist, No goal posts have been moved; I’m not saying either that abuse survivors always lie or that no abusers have been involved in the occult. So, maybe these two, or wasn’t it four, individuals were abused by culties in ways which mimicked widely popularized notions about satanic cults. Or maybe they are bonkers, or lying…I have no way of telling.

            What I’m saying is that regardless of individual incidents, there was a popular craze which erupted and eventually subsided, that it was investigated and found to have been based on falsehoods which is why most of the accused were exonerated after thorough reviews and application of normal rules of investigation. So, again, my central argument is that a confluence of short-cuts to proper procedures, stupid and credulous people with too much authority and secrecy inevitably lead to gross miscarriage of justice.

          • Anton

            I have no idea what the actual extent of ritual abuse is. But I believe that anybody who denies outright that it goes on, in view of those court cases and testimonies, is blinding themselves.

          • The ritual abuse craze claimed a massive world-wide conspiracy of Satanic cults involving millions of seemingly normal people in all sorts of positions who abuse children, often their own, in obedience to their cult’s demands. The notion still kicks around the lunatic fringe set and has a life of its own on the net, but the craze I’m talking about involved, for a short but painful time (ca.1980-1990), the social services, police and the courts. Are you saying that we must consider all crazes, as likely or real if anyone presents us with “testimonies”?

          • Anton

            You might do well to ponder your choice of the word “craze”, but even on your own terms I have no idea how to reply, because I cannot conceive of anything analogous in its significant details to ritual abuse allegations. I suggest you direct the question, if you are genuinely interested, to the four individuals I have named, through their publishers.

          • How about popular delusion, mass hysteria? Utter shite? Off the top of my head I can conceive of a number of analogous allegations from my own history; blood libels, well poisonings, ritual desecration of the host, witchcraft and such. All duly “documented” by the “experts” of the time and supported by heart-wrenching “testimonies” of victims.

          • Anton

            We have moved on from the era of confession under torture, which is where most of that stuff originated. As I said, I suggest you direct the question, if you are genuinely interested, to the four individuals I have named, through their publishers.

          • Confessions under torture took place against a background of a population panicked over the allegations by the clergy and their eager confederates. And as I said, I’m no way qualified to evaluate individual abuse claims

          • Anton

            Yes that is the background, and disgraceful it is – not to mention utterly inimical to the Spirit of the New Testament.

            If you accept that you are not qualified to evaluate individual abuse claims, why did you put the word Testimony in inverted commas with the clear implication that you were sceptical, ie prejudging it?

          • In those cases there were identifiable groups and individuals behind the allegations…specifically, clerics supported by friars in a struggle over control of judicial authority, a process in many ways similar to the push for power by the “lower orders” of social workers who started the ritual craze.

            I dislike most of what goes for testimonials, or “testimonials.” Most are unreliable claims by people used to promote issues by gaining sympathy through emotion, or to sell something. Yeah, perhaps I’m being prejudicial, but I think that when a case can be made for something, it can be made better with the support of other, more impersonal evidence.

          • Anton

            I’ll bet you dislike those testimonies! To get round them you have to be prepared to say someone who can reply is not telling the truth.

          • You’re being oddly persistent about this, Anton. Like as if it’s personal in some way, which only makes me edgy-like. Do you actually think I will change my entire understanding of a widely publicized and amply documented major international event on the strength of the claims of a few people who may or may not have anything to do with it? Whether they are truthful or not has little bearing on the phenomenon, which was mostly about agencies, institutions and laws failing in their core duties.

          • Anton

            And there was me thinking the same of you about odd persistence! What I don’t know, and have never claimed to know, is how much of it there is. But I do assert that it goes on, and that denials are largely due to cognitive dissonance. Many people don’t want to believe that something so evil can be going on in their own community and they do their utmost to ignore the evidence, mainly by looking at the sceptical case in much more detail than the other side. I have no idea whether you will change your mind, of course; strange question to ask!

          • Hmm, except that my persistence in avoiding jumping down the rabbit hole of dubious personal claims makes sense, whereas you have committed to defending a major institutional failure with a debunked and expired myth and potentially unrelated testimonials. What’s more, you have presented an argument which cannot be refuted by any reasonable evidence; no matter what the reality is, the existence of a single occultist abuser can be used to “prove” a vast conspiracy.

          • Anton

            You call the claims of Bramhall, Dee, Irvine and Harper dubious without even having read them? And then say I’m biased? I’m content to let that speak for itself.

          • Again, I have no idea who these people are and whether they are truthful or not does not affect the fact that the ritual abuse craze was a tragic hoax. It collapsed in the face of rational scrutiny, lack of evidence and profusion of truly insane claims which resemble those made at the height of the witch craze. As for reading up on this, I did read-up on the issue over ten years ago in detail, not long after the craze subsided and lots of materials appeared on it. Wikipedia has a good outline of the various issues and views on the topic under “Satanic ritual abuse,” and I agree with the dominant conclusion, that it was yet another instance of a mass psychosis.

          • Anton

            I’m impressed at the tenacity with which you rubbish books of personal testimony which you haven’t even read, two of them by self-confessed former practitioners.

        • Anton

          You’ve said exactly what I was trying to. Thank you.

    • Surely this is only necessary if children are likely to be present, and there were none in the media photographs of the York band. Any children in the ringing room would be children of ringers who would be present. As I said in my post below, very few bells would be rung if all the ringers had to undergo safeguarding checks, most wouldn’t bother. Only one person in our local band has safeguarding clearance as she works with children, and even that is technically not valid for anywhere other than her place of work.

      • Dominic Stockford

        It can be valid for another place, if the other place chooses that it can be so.

        • Not according to one of our ringers who has clearance. She says she has six separate ones, one for the children’s pre-school, one for the Brownies and one for Lighthouse. I don’t know what the others are for, but each one costs money and is clearly a nice little earner for those doing the clearance!

    • Little Black Censored

      Yes indeed! Read about the poor flower-ladies of Gloucester Cathedral.

  • David

    Do these actions and decisions suggest someone promoted above their level, who operates not by applying regulations with discretion, judgement and common sense but as rigid dictat to be enforced ruthlessly, callously and foolishly, to the detriment of the overall organisational objectives, and regardless of their real world consequences ?

    • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

      One suspects she believes in the Fifth Gospel of Cultural Marxism…so yes, dictats are to be ruthlessly enforced without question.

      • David

        We have reached similar conclusions. Saint Frankfurt has already visited the Cathedral’s steps.

      • Anton

        Any pearls of wisdom from goings-on at Barchester Cathedral, Mrs Proudie?

    • Jack wouldn’t say so, no.

    • Certainly she knows nothing about bell ringing if she believes a paid ‘head of ringing’ could recruit and train a band to be available in three months time. The only possible way would be to poach competent 12 bell ringers from elsewhere. I’m an eight bell ringer with years of experience and have occasionally rung on twelve bells, but it would take a lot more than three months to teach me to ring twelve bells to a reasonable standard.

      • David

        I totally agree.
        Her naiveté and sheer lack of understanding of the complexities and skill levels involved, suggests to me that, maybe she regards it all as a “mere manual task” ?

        • A lot of people think there is nothing to ringing until they have try!

  • Maalaistollo

    Never one to let an important topic go by without a bit of nit-picking around the margins, surely the bells fell silent during the war years, ie since 1361.

    • Anton

      What war involving England started in 1361? Towton was the largest battle of the Wars of the Roses but that was 1461, not 1361. And the 100 Years War was well under way by 1361 as Crecy was fought two decades earlier.

    • Royinsouthwest

      They were silent in WWII until after our victory at Alamein.

  • dannybhoy

    I do believe Simon and Garfunkel addressed the problem to a huge crowd of cheesed off amateur bellringers in Central Park back in 2009.. .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-JQ1q-13Ek
    WARNING: Art is particularly scary…

    • Martin


      You are naughty but …

      • dannybhoy

        Yes… I nearly chose that vid, but the crowd scene in Central Park seemed a fair substitute for hordes of angry bell ringers up in arms…..

    • betteroffoutofit

      Well I don’t know what you’re on about here with Simon and Garfunkel – Not that I want to you to darken my natural response to a beautiful piece of music, so please don’t bother.

      However, if His Grace will excuse a slightly OT approach – though it’s still about the effect of Communism on post-war community (and the UK’s present predicament does rather prolong the effects of 20th century wars)…….. There’s an excellent short story that references “The Sound of Silence” metaphorically: “A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain,” by Robert Olen Butler. Butler worked for US Counterintelligence in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

      As to my dearly beloved York … Alas. How utterly tragic that that the Church hasn’t managed to follow in the footsteps of Alfred the Great, by requiring the aliens to adopt Christianity.

      • dannybhoy

        The link is tenuous I grant you, but ‘The sound of Silence’ and, ‘The sound (or silence) of bells is bringing the Church of England into disrepute.’ seemed falrly reasonable.

        • betteroffoutofit

          Yes, I see. Thank you.

      • Martin


        I think the aliens have required the CoE to follow their god.

        • betteroffoutofit

          Exactly. That was what Alfred’s treaty with Guthrum avoided … and the English North progressed reasonably thereafter. Until the frogulated Bastard set about us (1069).

      • Anton

        As soon as you require people to become Christian, the result is not gospel Christianity.

        • betteroffoutofit

          My point is that, from AD 871, Guthrum’s Vikings were only allowed to settle the ‘Danelaw’ on that basis. Some* argue that this enabled stability and integration. Certainly, I can attest that latter-day descendants like me are an obviously integrated bunch of Celtic/Germanic/Viking types 🙂

          As to Christian Gospel … well, it continued in the Danelaw — the churches of York survived (earliest known 627) – including the Saxon version on the Minster site (of 732). Learning/education, book production, and their related law also managed to progress under the cure of Alfred and his followers, especially in light of the Latin texts studied in English.

          Our idiots, in contast, are letting the aliens take over regardless. They pollute education, and they impose their religion and their law within our fair land. As there is no commonality between us, even syncretization is impossible. One may pray that your principle will hold strong there — and that the resulting ‘bad’spell cannot remain true to itself. Their application of rape, after all, is probably the worst we’ve ever known in so-called times of ‘peace’. And while a female like the one mentioned today will attack her own race for putative crimes — she’ll turn absolutely toothless about the ‘in our faces’ alien ones.

          Come to think of it … maybe someone should make her take an undefended walk in certain areas of Dewsbury or Bradford …

          *cf: Crawford, Barbara E. “The Vikings.” From the Vikings to the Normans. Ed. Wendy Davies. Short Oxford History of the British Isles. Oxford: OUP, 2003. 41-71 (44-51).

          • Anton

            Certainly Alfred’s decision led to internal political stability and integration. But not to gospel Christianity.

            During the Dark Ages the Franks became institutionally Christian after their king Clovis won a battle following a trial prayer to Christ. A century later Bishop Gregory of Tours (d. 594) grumbled in his History of the Franks how hard it was to convince people that being a Christian meant a change of moral lifestyle and an end to pagan custom. In the 8th century Charlemagne conquered the remaining pagan Saxons on the continent and gave them the choice of baptism or death. That is the way of certain other Middle Eastern religions, not the gospel. It is not based on repentance and it will not produce piety, only conformity, for grace cannot be forced down people’s throats.

          • betteroffoutofit

            Two major problems here, Anton.
            1) You’re talking about euros – I delight in paying no more attention to those devils than they force on me. Remember, though, that Charleyboy never conquered Britain – though Mercia/Lichfield did communicate with him, and his educational system benefitted greatly from our Alcuin (would you believe, of York). It’s also worth noting that most scholars recognise that, despite Viking predations, it was the English and Irish who returned Christian scholarship and thought to the continent. The pedagogues at Canterbury (via Theodore and Hadrian, post 668) had imparted to Englishmen a rhetoric which both enhanced the survival of Greek rhetorical tradition, and encouraged its development in a new context. The process involved interlace of languages and cultures, and the ensuing principle of literary vernacular returned to Europe disseminated by missionaries like Boniface (680-754) in Germany, and Willibrord (658-739) in Frisia.

            Also, Alfred gave no choice of ‘baptism or death.’ He defeated Guthrum and his Vikings … the choice would then be further defeat – or, mayhap, to go back where they came from. Note that he ceded them the Danelaw, once they agreed to integration – hardly an Islamic strategy.

            2) You refer to the era as the “Dark Ages.” Many Anglo-Saxonists disagree with that. Dark the age was not … in England. Though often hard-fought, Anglo-Saxon times were brilliantly lit by developments in Christian thought, literacy, and accomplishments – not least by the contributions Alfred engendered.
            Postmoderns, especially, suffer from the old blindness of seeing everyone but themselves in the mirror: The Darkest Age ever is here and now.

          • Anton

            In many ways you are preaching to the converted. I’ve long believed that the Dark Ages weren’t so dark, and I was using the term only for easy recognition. Petrarch was the grandfather of the term, having spoken of a thousand years of darkness prior to himself (Dante notwithstanding!)

            Missions from the British Isles certainly relit the torch of Christianity in many parts of *northern* Europe, although it never died out in Italy or, of course, areas run from Byzantium. But the main point I was concerned to make is that imposed Christianity is inauthentic Christianity. I stand by that, because it is not based on repentance and it will not produce piety, only conformity. Grace cannot be forced down people’s throats. Making Christianity a tool of politics is not going too make real Christians. That’s why you got a continent of institutional injustice in the feudal system (compare the Mosaic system of land ownership!) and endless wars between princes who claimed to follow the Prince of Peace.

  • Mark Ellse

    Suppose a sin had been committed. Is there no forgiveness for sexual sin? (Except homosexual sin, of course.)

    • Just curious over the source of your theological claim. Where do you find that homosexual sin is (edit: the only) unforgivable sexual sin?

      • Inspector General

        Think you’re reading the fellow wrong Avi. Everyone knows that homosexual sin is the one sin you can eat between meals…

  • James Bolivar DiGriz

    From the update:
    The Chapter of York is required by the law of the land and Church of
    England national policy to take its safeguarding responsibilities

    The Church of England’s Practice Guidance: Responding to Serious
    Situations Relating to Church Officers states that a serious
    safeguarding situation may relate to a church officer (someone who is
    paid/unpaid) who has:
    – behaved in a way that has or may have harmed a child or adult;
    possibly committed a criminal offence against or related to a child or adult;
    (emphasis added)

    I read this as meaning that there is an issue with every single person in the CoE as anyone could possibly have ‘committed a criminal offence against or related to a child or adult’.

    On that basis the policy is clearly nonsense.

    • It would also mean that you could never have any visiting ringers, as even if they have clearance this only applies to one place. When I used to travel for work, I’d often pop into a local tower for practice or service ringing and so do many other individuals.

  • PessimisticPurple

    Ok, so, let me get this straight, and I’m sure somebody can correct me if I’m wrong. Potter was suspended pending an investigation for supposed child abuse. The investigation cleared him. The Anglican authorities nevertheless banned him for life. The other bell-ringers took exception and all got sacked for insubordination. Have I got that right? OK, how about this: let’s one of us here here complain about the Dean, or the Archbishop of York, or Uncle Tom Cobley in the verger’s office doing something naughty with the choristers. It doesn’t matter if our accusations are malicious fabrications or not. We get our chosen victim suspended and, when they are cleared of all wrongdoing, as they inevitably will be, we can still get them banned for life from the cathedral. Karma is not a Christian concept, but hell, how about that for turnabout?

  • Dominic Stockford

    Found guilty by reason of allegation. 29 others found guilty by reason of disagreeing with the allegations. I guess, ABC, that you, I, and many others on this blog should be added to the list of those found guilty, for the crime of disagreeing with the indefensible.

    • Jack takes it your church has no safeguarding policies in place.

  • chefofsinners

    Don’t most major bell towers have automated ringing these days? Might save a lot of bother…

    • Old Nick

      Would save a lot of bother if the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra were replaced by a load of robots, but somehow that would not be music, would it ?

      • Anton

        Their CDs save me the bother of going to Berlin…

      • chefofsinners

        Or if the horse were replaced by the motor car, it might not be travel.

        Neither you nor I could tell the difference between automated and manual ringing.

        • I believe that most ringers would be able to tell the difference. Automated ringing, as for example the church clock, where hammers strike the bells provides different tones and overtones than a bell correctly struck with an internal clapper. The rhythm of automatic ringing is also different, as I’m not a musician I can’t explain why, but bells rung by hand sound very different from a carillon on the same bells.

        • Shadrach Fire

          Not so. Automated won’t make so many mistakes!

        • Old Nick

          I certainly can. I can even tell the difference between ringing and chiming. And I worship a living God with live music, not some abstraction with an electronic prayer-wheel. It is because they speak the living praise of God that bells, alone of church furniture are baptized.

    • I’m unaware of any in the Oxford diocese which are automated. Some have Ellacombe hammers which allow a single ringer to sound the bells, few use them, in the tower where I ring they were removed when the bells were refurbished some years ago.

  • chefofsinners

    The clue is in the Dean’s name: Vivienne Faull.
    Christian name is a form of Eve.
    Surname – the original sin.

    She should not be exerting authority over a man in the church.

    • Anton

      I agree, but what’s that to do with the matter at hand?

      • chefofsinners

        Perhaps the root of one bad decision lies in another.

        • Pubcrawler

          I encountered her a couple of times when she was chaplain of Clare College, Cambridge (under and then succeeding Rowan Williams, IIRC). You can draw your own conclusions from that.

          Good at the pastoral stuff, I gather from school chums at that College, but the one time I heard her preach didn’t impress me much.

          • dannybhoy

            “but the one time I heard her preach didn’t impress me much.”
            Ah! that reminds me of…………..

          • Pubcrawler

            Are you Sam in disguise?

          • dannybhoy

            Am I Sam….
            Am I Sam?
            Now who’s Sam…
            Ah, you mean am I Mr Toad!
            Er, no.

  • Martin

    Isn’t it strange how the CoE is busy condemning people on the flimsiest of evidence while clearly disobeying God’s commands in the Bible to exclude those of sexual immorality, such as homosexuals, and restrict positions of authority to men. One wonders if that latter disobedience has relevance in this case, for surely a woman should not be a dean in a Christian church that adheres to biblical principles.

    • chefofsinners

      Not forgetting all other forms of sexual immorality.

      • Martin


        Hence I did not restrict it.

        • chefofsinners

          Practising homosexuals, you mean, of course?

          • Martin


            Anyone who espouses the sin.

            You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire.
            (Matthew 5:21-22 [ESV])

            If the sin is held in the heart, the guilt remains.

    • How do you know the evidence was flimsy?
      When did it stop being a biblical principle to protect the young and vulnerable?

      • It is unlikely that anyone who is young or vulnerable would be ringing on the York bells where the heaviest bell weighs about 3 tons. The only young person likely to be in the ringing room would be a child of one of the ringers. The photo of the York ringers in the media doesn’t show any children in the band.

      • Martin


        If the evidence was not flimsy it would have used in a criminal prosecution.

        You don’t protect the young and vulnerable by banning the innocent. It seems to me that main problem is the dean.

        • You do know that even with a confession from an accused person, the uncorroborated evidence of a single witness is insufficient to bring a case to trial?

          • Martin


            I was recently a juror and saw how flimsy evidence can be and still be brought to court and gain a conviction. Injustice and secret ‘justice’ never helps anyone.

    • dannybhoy

      What is it with the CofE and homosexuality? Seriously, was “Thou Shalt Not be a Homosexual” and “Thou shalt not commit Homosexual Acts” the only commandments?
      What about,
      “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
      “Thou shalt not take the LORD’s name in vain.”
      “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

      “Thou shall not murder.

      “Thou shall not commit adultery.

      “Thou shall not steal.

      “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

      “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet
      your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor
      his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

      I take on board Jack’s point that homosexuality threatens society, but the Lord God doesn’t seem to have singled homosexuality out for especial condemnation.
      So why does it take pride of place in our modern thinking?

      • Anton

        Because modern thinking says that homosexuality is OK and the Bible says it isn’t. There is therefore a spiritual battle. The church should not do more than offer advice to the wider world, but it is shameful that the battle needs fighting inside the church as well.

        • dannybhoy

          This is nonsense. The Church is there to live and proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation and eternal life, not to concentrate on one aspect of man’s rebellion.
          St Paul says in 1st Corinthians 6>
          9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you.”

          Who decided to revise the list?

          • Anton

            The point is that we live in a democracy where the law is up for grabs, and homosexuals and evangelical Christians take opposite views. So there is going to be a spiritual battle played out in the political sphere. It is the church’s duty to stand publicly for what it believes in such situations. Nobody ever said it is the church’s only duty. The tragedy is that it is hobbled in its response by church liberals who should be shown the door.

          • magnolia

            Are you suggesting that men who practice homosexuality are a discrete group that differs from those involved in sexual immorality, idolatry, and adultery?

            if so, I don’t follow…

          • dannybhoy

            No, I’m saying that sin is sin and homosexuality is there in the list besides the others. My point is that the Church doesn’t talk about all the other sins any more and that is what makes us appear obsessed with homosexuality.
            For example adultery is just as harmful to society as homosexuality, as is pornography and murder: but the Church doesn’t have anything to say about them…

          • No one’s actively promoting murder as a human right, except abortion. Adultery is still accepted as wrong, even if a popular pastime. Jack agrees with you about pornography.

            Gender theory, homosexuality and abortion are surely the spiritual crimes of our time – and all are grievous and cry to heaven for vengeance.


          • Anton

            It’s not the church which is obsessed with homosexuality. Evangelicals are simply providing resistance to the gay movement, who have sought to change society. Which side is obsessed?

          • dannybhoy

            Society as a whole (Islam aside), does not see a problem with homosexuality, the Church does. Which it should because God says it is wrong. That should be the end of the matter because the mission of the Church (including the CofE) should be the proclamation and practice of the Gospel to the world. To be salt and light in the world and proclaim the way of salvation. The Church has allowed itself to get entangled in an issue which it cannot win, and which is distracting it from its real mission.

          • CliveM

            Sage words DB, sage words. Frankly the way some go on, you’d think Christianity didn’t have anything else to say.

            The obsession with this topic is harming the wider Christian witness. We have so much else to say.

          • dannybhoy

            O btw, You posted an article on Ancestral versus Original Sin some weeks ago..

            I printed it off and read and re-read it, and still read it occasionally. (It’s kept in the loo for easy reference.. :0)
            I agree with its central point that the consequences of Adam’s disobedience was death and corruption rather than original sin; i.e. ALL sinned in Adam, as Augustine seemed to believe….
            (Cue Martin..)

          • CliveM

            Personally I find it a better biblical explanation.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes, me too. Personally (and perhaps selfishly) it also fits with my belief that we were not individually designed by God to be physically as we are, but that God loves us as we are, and if we allow Him He will begin to change us from within to become more like His beloved Son..

          • CliveM

            It also ties in better with the Jewish understanding, which shouldn’t be discounted.

          • dannybhoy

            Yes. It’s a tough one because there are many verses which refer to man’s sinfulness but none that say we are incapable of repentance. Some verses say we won’t repent because of the stubbornness of our hearts, but not that we can’t repent.

          • CliveM

            Tbh I think original sin is the source of the Christian heresy of predestination.

          • dannybhoy

            That article -and other similar sources says so. That Augustine misunderstood (bad translation) the verse. Hang on, I’ll quote it..

            “The piety and devotion of Augustine is largely unquestioned
            by Orthodox theologians, but his conclusions on the Atonement are (Romanides,
            2002). Augustine, by his own admission, did not properly learn to read
            Greek and this was a liability for him. He seems to have relied mostly
            on Latin translations of Greek texts (Augustine, 1956a,

            p. 9). His misinterpretation of a key scriptural reference,
            Romans 5:12, is a case in point (Meyendorff, 1979). In Latin the Greek
            idiom eph ho which means because of was translated
            as in whom. Saying that all have sinned in Adam is quite
            different than saying that all sinned because of him. Augustine
            believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam (Meyendorff,
            1979, p. 144). The result is that guilt replaces death as the ancestral
            inheritance (Augustine, 1956b) Therefore the term original sin conveys
            the belief that Adam and Eve’s sin is the first and universal transgression
            in which all humanity participates.

            Augustine famously debated Pelagius (c. 354-418) over
            the place the human will could play in salvation. Augustine took the
            position against him that only grace is able to save, sola gratis
            (Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, 7)[4].
            From this a doctrine of predestination developed (God gives grace to
            whom He will) which hardened in the 16th and 17th
            centuries into the doctrine of two-fold predestination (God in His sovereignty
            saves some and condemns others). The position of the Church of the first
            two centuries concerning the image and human freedom was abandoned.”


          • Anton

            I agree that it should not be accepted in the church.

            Christians in politics have a duty to promote the divine view of things, however. Beneath this is the issue of whether the church corporately should be in politics, beyond just individual Christians. I believe not.

          • dannybhoy

            ” the issue of whether the church corporately should be in politics, beyond just individual Christians. I believe not.”
            On this we agree. Individuals yes, the Church no. But then of course we’re back to the issue of Disestablishment..

        • dannybhoy

          It may seem simplistic but can’t we just say that the Scriptures make it very clear that God does not, will not condone homosexuality, and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t mean we hate homosexuals or want to persecute them, but we cannot condone the lifestyle. The longer we agonise and my Goodness, the CofE knows how to agonise; the more likely it is that concessions will be made for the sake of ‘peace’ and social acceptance..

      • According to scripture it is a particularly heinous sin, being described as an abomination and one of a small number that cry to heaven for vengeance.

        “And the Lord said: The cry of Sodom and Gomorrha is multiplied, and their sin is become exceedingly grievous. I will go down and see whether they have done according to the cry that is come to me: or whether it be not so, that I may know.”
        (Gen. 18:20-21)

        • Anton

          Stick with the verses from Leviticus, Jack. Ezekiel (16:49-50) states the sins for which Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed and, while there is a catch-all phrase, homosexuality is not specified.

      • John

        Because those seeking to weaken Christianity and damage the Church have chosen to put this particular issue at the sharp end of their assault on Christian morality, thus undermining the Bible’s authority. The Episcopal Church in the USA is a perfect case study of how quickly churches empty when they abandon God’s eternal word for whatever godless morals happen to be in vogue. Defence has to be most vigorous where attack is most pernicious.

      • Martin


        Could be that it is the ‘homosexual’ who is demanding we treat their perversion as normal. If adulterers or thieves were doing the same thing then they would get the attention.

        • dannybhoy


          • Martin



          • dannybhoy

            Sorry Martin, it’s just that it seems to me this has become such an issue because the Church (inclusive) has stopped preaching the Gospel of salvation and is now trying to placate society so that Christianity becomes approved and acceptable to the unsaved..

          • Martin


            Men will always present the true Church as opposed to what is right, they did it at the beginning and they are still doing it.

  • not a machine

    The bell ringers situation looks a bit of a dogs dinner ,in thinking about it ,I am surprised the deans boss has agreed to this to happen , I mean losing all your bell ringers is no small deal.An allegation is just that ,so seems to me ,best thing would have word that they would wait and see what legal outcome was and acted accordingly .I might go on a suspension if allegation was serious ,I mean surely a suspension works for both parties.If I have read your graces article correctly ,you are making a point about the deans disregard for the criminal law and not the court of the dean feelings or capacity to judge such a matter as true or not .The deans insubordination response to the 30 , to me shows a person who is prepared to trash decades of volunteering and skill and knowledge to bell ringing , I mean surely his next move must be prove and out this nest of evil , or look like a weak reactionary with poor judgement themselves who cannot conduct his/her own office in a fair way

  • chefofsinners

    Perhaps if Mr Potter swore an oath to uphold British values…?

    • David

      Or arranged to re-fight the battle of El Alamein !
      I am sure Monty would love to return to give a repeat ….

    • dannybhoy

      Or just swore?

  • Royinsouthwest

    To read that the consequence of this is that York Minster’s bells will fall silent at Christmas for the first time since 1361 brings the whole Church of England into disrepute.

    Is the above statement really true? I doubt if it is as they were silent during part of WWII, unless an exception was made at Christmas.

    Early on in the Second World War, from May 1940 onwards, Britain’s church bells remained silent. It was not until just after our victory at the Battle of El Alamein which started on 23 October 1942 and finished round about 4 November that the bells were rung again.

    A 5-Minute History Of The Battle Of El Alamein

  • Anton

    I beg Your Grace’s pardon, but I believe you will not find that Quasimodo utters the words “The bells! The bells!” (at least in Victor Hugo’s novel, even in English translation). The line was made famous by Sir Henry Irving, playing Mathias in the play “The Bells”, which is a translation by Leopold Lewis of a French play called Le Juif Polonais.

    • chefofsinners

      Ed Bells

      • Royinsouthwest

        You are obviously thinking of Jerry Lee Lewis and his hit song “Great Bells of Fire!”

        • Anton

          Love this version:

          • Pubcrawler

            If we’re doing rock’n’roll greats…

  • len

    After decades of ‘cover ups’ of paedophile activity in all levels of society there is now a violent backlash against that and quite rightly so .
    But in the desire to protect the young and the vulnerable society must be careful to get its facts right and not embark on’ witch hunt’s and accuse those who have committed no crime.
    In the days when ‘witch hunts ‘were common practice it was quite common for accusations to be made to settle old scores with false accusations for material gain or just for plain vindictiveness.
    Paedophiles must be caught and prosecuted but society must proceed with caution.

  • ” The church is sacrificing its present loyal workers and members in order to atone for its past sins and omissions.”

    A tad hyperbolic, Your Grace. Rather, the Church is following national policies in attempting to avoid the future abuse of children by employees and volunteers by putting in place and implementing it’s own safeguarding procedures.

    “An outcome of ‘no further action’ by the CPS because of ‘insufficient evidence’ is the standard way of expressing an unfounded allegation, and the most likely way to express the outcome of a wrongful allegation.”

    No it isn’t. It means the CPS does not have confidence in securing a conviction because many of these crimes rely on single child witness testimony and have no corroborating evidence. It’s the nature of the beast.

  • Jon Sorensen

    “the secret trial of Bishop George Bell”
    LOL. This Child Abuse Royal Commission was on front page of newspapers everyday! And it was “I can’t recall” Pell who tried to avoid the news. Videos of his testimony were published by news sites. Anyone can check this online.

    Archbishop Cranmer seems to be in a business to provide fake news for clicks…

    • chefofsinners

      You are confusing Cardinal George Pell with Bishop George Bell.

      • Dominic Stockford

        We should set Peter Hitchens on Jon, that’d sort that one out (on this subject!),

      • Jon Sorensen

        So true. I stand corrected.

  • David

    What is a cathedral without its towers…
    What are the cathedral’s towers without their bells…
    What are the cathedral’s bell towers without its ringers…
    What is a cathedral chapter without wisdom ?

    • What are cathedrals if not safe places for children and the vulnerable …

      • David

        You emphasise a point opposed by no one.
        This whole article turns upon, mainly, the question of how the twin aims of protection and security, plus fairness and justice are ensured. In the background is also the motivation and morale of all the cathedral’s staff, including the tower team. Deeper into the background is the reputation of the cathedral for those qualities it claims to represent, and still deeper the reputation of the entire denomination, if not faith…
        Achieving just one aim is often easy, childlike even, and usually the preserve of the myopically zealous, or brainwashed.
        Mature judgement and managerial skill are prerequisites for achieving twin and even more complex combinations of aims.

        • The problem with the article, and the bulk of comments here, is that is aligns the “twin aims of protection and security, plus fairness and justice” with a criminal trial and conviction based on proof beyond a reasonable doubt. This system is intended to protect the innocent from unjust punishment but, as we all know, it is subject to human error. The safeguarding system is designed to protect children and the vulnerable – not to secure public prosecutions. It’s a system intended to share intelligence and manage assessed risk, not to secure convictions.

          How quickly we forget the lessons from the Soham murders. There Huntley, who murdered two 10-year-old girls, Holly Marie Wells and Jessica Aimee Chapman, had been the subject of various allegations, including indecent assault, acts of underage sex and three rapes. None of these had resulted in a conviction.

          • Mike Stallard

            Jack, if some anonymous person accused you personally of child abuse and then, remaining anonymous, sat and watched you coming to bits – maybe losing your wife and children, your job, your beloved hobby and perhaps your faith in God – while appearing on front of a lot of important people as a victim with, no doubt, floods of tears, how would you, Jack feel?
            This breaks every single tenet of British justice and smacks of the most terrible tyranny. In no way is it anything to do with the love of God or the charity of man.

          • Anton

            The point is that there is more to life than the law. What do you think of the fact that the school where Huntley worked was not informed of the police’s suspicions?

          • carl jacobs

            The deadly assumption is that this regimen can efficiently separate wheat from chaff such that those who are innocent will get screened out. What remains are “Guilty people that haven’t been caught yet.” Read Jack’s arguments on this thread through that lens and everything he says makes sense. Sure, he knows some small percentage of innocents will get caught in the net. But he assumes that number is very small, and he is willing to accept their unfortunate fate as unavoidable collateral damage for the greater good. To me it is more important to restrict the power of Gov’t to do harm than to restrict the power of an individual to do harm because the Gov’t has vastly more capacity to inflict harm than does any given individual.

          • What remains are “Guilty people that haven’t been caught yet.”

            No. The position of the system is: There are people where the level of uncertainty is such that the risk has to be managed and any serious doubt has to be weighted in favour of protecting children. And, yes, Jack is willing to acknowledge some innocent people will be caught in this net, just as innocent people are wrongly convicted (some executed) for crimes they did not commit.

            “To me it is more important to restrict the power of Govt to do harm than to restrict the power of an individual to do harrm because the Govt has vastly more capacity to inflict harm than does any given individual.”
            A fair point but misapplied in this instance. It would mean dismantling the entire child protection system and information sharing between agencies, with inevitable harm to incalculable numbers of children. Governments are there to protect the weak and vulnerable.

            And the Soham murders, Carl? It would have been state overreach to have taken steps to stop Huntley having access to children, thus avoiding these preventable murders?

          • Anton

            I’ve just suggested to Carl above that there is a place for off-the-record private conversations between policemen and men like the Soham headmaster.

          • Not necessary as all appointments in schools now require a full criminal records disclosure check which details not only convictions but also police intelligence and past investigations.

          • Mike Stallard

            Yup – and there is more fall out too. I (an old man and therefore suspect) volunteered to do some teaching (I am CRB checked, qualified and experienced) unpaid at the local comp. No chance!

          • carl jacobs

            Oh, well, that’s alright then. So long as we’re just “managing risk”. Tell me. What is the evidence that warrants the subject of this post having his “risk managed”?

          • Jack is unable to disclose that due to the Data Protection Act 1998.

          • Anton

            When I said that there is more to life than law, this “more” can be made to work for good… in the case in point, someone from the local police should have had a word with the school headmaster over a quiet drink off the record and warned him off employing Huntley.

          • magnolia

            What of those whose children have sustained injuries which were not their fault, have suffered greatly through suspicion, and yet believe all such injuries should be questioned because they might be inflicted by an adult?

            Takes toughness, but then it is better for adults to endure than children. It is part of the responsibility of being adult to not be very cosseted. If non-vulnerable adults between the ages of 21-ish to 65-ish cannot be the tough responsible ones then who can be? We need some non-snowflakes for society to function.

          • How generous of you to sacrifice adult males on the altar of convenience for sloppy and incompetent administrators. This is how society should function? Except that miscarriages of justice aren’t the just temporary rough-spots for a few guys who need to man-up, as you imagine them to be, but life-long traumas affecting entire families, including children.

          • magnolia

            You may be annoyed by this case, but it feels rather unlike you to come out with three unexamined premises that are not what I wrote.

            All adults-myself included, that was. All adults, both male and female. No one is being sacrificed. And why did you assume that none of those who have been unfairly suspected of any type of abuse could ever be mothers? Mothers still do the vast % of supervision. Suppose little 4 year old Johnny takes a large toy tractor and bashes little 2 year old Tommy trying to get hold of it over the head while Mummy has her back turned. Who do you suppose comes under suspicion for the fairly serious bruising? Daddy who is at work 40 miles away in the city?

            Would the mother in this case- which is by the way a completely hypothetical one- say that it was completely wrong for her case to be held up to scrutiny? While it is not at all her fault, it is not preventable either. Life can be tough like that.

          • Magnolia, what I’m annoyed at are attitudes which push for a loosening of investigative and judicial standards for the “greater cause” of the day. You stated that adults between 21-ish and 65 should tolerate lapses in justice for the sake of the children. I disagreed. Yet, here you complain about a hypothetical case of an adult, a woman, under suspicion of abuse.

            Even though only about 15% (in the US) of women find themselves facing scrutiny or charges for child abuse, and I was speaking sloppily and in generalities, your claim that women can be subject to accusations stands. But what your own hypothetical example shows is that many cases are simply unknowable with standard investigative tools, given that they take place in the privacy of the home. This may be frustrating to all of us, knowing that some guilty parties will remain untouchable and that some children will suffer, but what is the alternative?

            Note that this is a choice is between an imperfect system, but one based on equality and judicial integrity, versus an enhanced one designed to catch and prevent abuse much more effectively. But If you propose looser standards or more robust powers of investigation and intervention for the sake of the latter, you are not only sacrificing adults who shouldn’t be snowflakes, but our entire system, because where would you stop this loosening? What arguments would you have against such highly effective measures like certificates and permits for the right to bear and rear children, multi-million dollar investigations, torture of suspects, or cameras in every home with minors? And once we’ve taken care of the children by implementing draconian laws and measures and building huge bureaucracies, which unbearable social injustice to we tackle next?

          • dannybhoy

            Ironside lives on!

          • Little Black Censored

            “…he is willing to accept their unfortunate fate…”
            That’s all right then.

          • Mike Stallard

            Well, to me, Christianity comes into it here.
            I believe that everyone is a sinner. I also believe in Jesus’ command to the Pharisees over the woman caught in adultery. I also believe that paedophobia is driving out our legal rights and ruining our once fair justice system.
            I believe too that God is judging and watching as we speak which takes a lot of weight off our own sufferings. He has, after all, the final responsibility: not us.
            And I also believe that the balance has shifted from the blind eye tactics of yesteryear to listening to sneaks and toadies, some of whom are after compensation, often at the expense of innocent old men.
            Hard cases make bad law. Huntley let me remind you was thoroughly CRB checked.

          • Anton

            Was he? Please give a reference.

          • Mike Stallard

            If you mean God, then honestly, I am shocked! If you mean Ian Huntley, then he was checked but sent in a fraudulent reference and got clean away with it.
            “By the time he applied for the job at Soham, Huntley had changed his name to Ian Nixon – that might have fooled the system but in fact he did admit his original name was Huntley.

            His police checks form first went to the Cambridgeshire force – they checked the police national computer under the name Nixon but they failed to check under Huntley – which would have thrown up his burglary charge.

            Cambridgeshire Chief Constable Tom Lloyd admits that this was a mistake.”

          • Anton

            In which case your comment that Huntley was “thoroughly CRB checked” is highly inaccurate!

          • It’s factually inaccurate too.

          • Mike Stallard

            Look, if you want to win an argument – that’s fine by me. Be my guest.
            What I was trying to point out is that the law and the state are totally incompetent when dealing with individual perverts. I mean totally.
            Suspension on the word of an anonymous “victim” and then being held over for a year (Cliff Richard for one example) before being found innocent (found innocent for heaven’s sake!) is not British values.

          • Not “thoroughly”. Just previous convictions were disclosed – and he had none. Information about prior arrests and charges was not shared because the relevant police force considered it protected by the Data Protection Act. Therefore the critical information about his prior arrests, or police intelligence on him, was not passed on to the school.

          • magnolia

            Agree wholeheartedly. Not unknown in these cases for evidence to be given in private without the alleged victims consent for it to be taken further as they are so scared. You will know this far far better than me.

            There has been a portrayal of brash moneygrubbing victims in some part of the media which though a small minority may be does not give the full picture which is far more typically of the deeply scared, scarred, and tearful person looking crumpled and with little to no self-respect.

            Not expressing an opinion on this particular case, but wishing to correct the general impressions and prejudices here.

          • CliveM

            I agree. Well said.

          • “What if?”

            We can both play that game.

            What if … some person employed by my church kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed my child? What if … that person had a string of allegations against him of credible sexual assaults on women and children, yet no convictions? What if … this was known to the authorities but, because of a desire to protect his human rights, they did nothing?

          • dannybhoy

            What if people had done their homework, my wife might have died in peace, still proud of the man she married and shared her life with…

          • By the grace of God, his wife now knows greater peace.

          • dannybhoy

            An observation that rather reminds me of the book entitled, “Cold Comfort Farm..”

      • I would suggest that being in the congregation or the choir are the most risky places.
        In my view, the ringing room in a church is probably one of the safest places for a youngster; there are other people present in a relatively small room who would notice anything untoward (unless they are all co-conspirators). In any case, there is no evidence that there were children in the ringing room.

      • Little Black Censored

        = “Call me old-fashioned but I happen to believe that we should treat children and vulnerable people with kindness and respect. I’m funny that way.”

        • And one would expect no less. However, some people view them as soft targets to exploit. There are wolves amongst the sheep.

      • Anton

        Jack, I should have asked earlier: does a DBS (formerly CRB) check just come back as Yes or No, or does it give reasons? What information is looked into in issuing the certificate? Would an acquittal in a relevant court case nevertheless be grounds for a No? If that is the case, could the person acquitted sue the issuers of the DBS? Glad of any reply!

        • The certificate lists offences and any court appearances, police investigations etc. It provides hard and soft information to a named person in the agency and it’s for them to determine whether this is a “Yes” or a “No” in terms of employment/volunteering.

          • Anton

            Thank you!

    • chefofsinners

      Or love…
      If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

      • David

        Quite !

  • hereward

    All very BELLigerent innit ??

    • David

      You’re a dead ringer for that !

  • Mike Stallard

    I know that God is watching her very carefully indeed.

  • Anton

    What is that gizmo next to Potter in the photo? Can any campanologist help?

    • Pubcrawler

      It’s a carillon.


      • Anton

        An electric one? I don’t see extensive mechanical connections, which is what confused me.

        • Pubcrawler

          There you need to call in the experts.

          • Anton

            It seems to me to be defying gravity.

  • Little Black Censored

    Perhaps we should adopt the good old Spanish ceremony of throwing the dean off the church tower. Oh, I forgot, it is a donkey.

    • dannybhoy

      Who’s to know?

      • Dominic Stockford

        Define ‘donkey’…. (and please don’t say ‘Tony Adams’)

        • dannybhoy

          My point was that by the time ‘it’ hit the ground it might be difficult to tell the difference.

          • Anton

            It was not meant to hit the ground, but be caught (probably not very well) in a canvas sheet held by locals. Truly a weird custom.


          • Dominic Stockford

            And there was me thinking that you meant there might be no way of telling the difference BEFORE it hit the ground…..

          • dannybhoy


    • Anton

      Actually it was a goat. Can you imagine getting a reluctant donkey up the stairs of a church tower?

  • Shadrach Fire

    In the 1700’s, ‘In the rural areas, standards of behaviour deteriorated with bell ringers described as layouts and drunks. Often locals saw an opportunity to earn a few shillings however this was often transferred quickly from the church tower to the village inn. Any and every opportunity taken to ring, for which the tavern keepers were very grateful. Attendance at church services was considered no part of bell ringing’.

    When I was ringing in the late 50’s and early 60’s church attendance was frequently ignored by ringers except I was part of the choir. Ringers have for hundreds of years bee autonomous groups with associations and generally were aloof from the ministry. Very independent minded individuals.

    I agree with the Pensioner, most unlikely that children should be trained on a peel of 12. I found it hard enough as a teenager to cope with 6 bells.

    • Pubcrawler

      “this was often transferred quickly from the church tower to the village inn”

      Which is why so many have ‘Bell’ in their name/sign.

      • dannybhoy

        In many old English villages the public house was built very near to the church….
        It provided a meeting place for the sacred and the secular, recognising in that particularly English way of ours that not everyone agrees with our point of view, but we can still be friends over a pint..

        • Pubcrawler

          True. But then in most old English villages, everything was pretty near everything else anyway.

          I forget now which prelate I learnt the phrase from, but heading to the pub after Divine Office satisfies the thirst after righteousness, I principle which I maintain with zeal.

          • dannybhoy

            “True. But then in most old English villages, everything was pretty near everything else anyway.”
            ‘Twas the only way to keep warm…

          • Pubcrawler

            And it helped to ‘keep it in the family’, too. Especially in the Fens…

    • David

      I’d agree with every word of that.
      Those who haven’t done any ringing are very badly placed to understand what is involved.

  • David

    Right ! We’ve heard a number of good arguments,

    Now let’s ring the changes !

    Apologies issued in advance of flying tomatoes !

    • chefofsinners

      There’s been a bit of a ding-dong. Some clangers have been dropped, a few lies tolled, but the ring leaders have put in a towering performance. Their words have rung true and have been a Big Ben-efit. The Dean will be clapped in irons but she might get out on a peal.

      Are you sorry you started this yet?

      • David

        Splendid effort chef !
        I’ve been knocked into a cocked hat !

        Henceforth I shall proclaim you’re new handle, drums roll…
        I give you….
        “Chef de Sinner, the Bell Wether of Punning” !

        • chefofsinners

          Thanks David, me old chimer.
          I’m a spireing to the nobell prize for literature.

  • Sybaseguru

    Firstly the church only has procedures for investigating clergy. No Lay procedures, no Readers procedures. Sure they are just bringing in rules about 20 years too late, but there are no procedures to protect against false claims and long drawn out investigations with the person effectively excommunicated. I know of one diocese thats employed a very expensive safeguarding officer for 10 years and who has only recently produced some guidelines – but they still don’t provide a way forward for those accused of even the most trivial suspected offence.
    Surely the simple way forward in this case would have been to ask Mr Potter to ensure he was never alone with a vulnerable person with the penalty being that he would be removed from post.

  • chefofsinners

    What’s it like to be a gay bell ringer?
    I can’t think of a campanalogy.

    • Bernard from Bucks

      I expect they enjoy singing –
      “Don we now our gay apparel,
      Troll the ancient Christmas carol.”

    • Pubcrawler

      They might suffer from Bell Bottom Blues.

  • chefofsinners

    Bell ringing… the original heavy metal music.

    • Almost 3 tons for the heaviest bell at York. Not for a child or inexperienced ringer!

      • chefofsinners

        There’s a decent pub called the Three Tuns in York.

    • Anton

      It’s far above your head.

      • chefofsinners

        No danger of head banging then.

    • chefofsinners

      Including the song about the campanologist who expired while leading in his tennis match. Final score: ‘Dead Ringer Four-Love.’

      • dannybhoy

        You’re on a roll Chef..

    • Sarky

      ‘Hells bells’ by acdc, the best bell intro to a song ever.

      Or ‘for whom the bell tolls’ by metallica….best bell themed song!

      • Pubcrawler

        What? Better than this?

        OK, maybe. But the best bell intro has to be Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath. AC/DC and Metallica are mere footnotes in comparison.

  • chefofsinners

    “This witch hunt against Mr Potter is completely unjustified.” – Albus Dumbledore

  • IanCad

    Quite a marathon this thread has turned into; with some very funny comments. That aside, the vileness of false accusation seems not to be getting the condemnation it deserves.

    Dannybhoy’s link, here:


    Should be read by all; and, from it, could there not be a campaign started to strip Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe of his knighthood?
    That may be doomed from the start. The Metropolitan Police have a tendency to boot failures upstairs. As witness the serially incompetent Cressida Dick’s elevation to the highest ranks in the force.

  • mjohnm

    But what were the court proceedings in 2015, what were the undertakings and why were they given? This should not be glossed over by either the Church or His Grace

  • weirdvisions

    Re the sackings. Bull? Certainly. The stuff that falls out of the back of a bull? Absolutely.

  • dannybhoy

    Where’d you get the fake tan job and the cheap sunglasses?
    The kindest thing I can say is that at least your features are regular…

  • chefofsinners
  • Anton

    York Minster’s bells rang out, rung by discreet volunteers from across Yorkshire, for their carol service in the evening of December 22nd:


  • Susan Longley

    No “discreet volunteers” will ever be allowed to ring the bells of York Minster. This is a sacred rite for those ordained to do so. Not by fiat, of Faull or the chapter or the Archbishop, for that matter. The Gospel is clear. Justice and truth are clear