Just Thinking

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abuse of power

I have been following with interest the current review into safeguarding practices in the Anglican church.  Many of the findings resonate very loudly with me because of my own experiences about 12 years ago trying to get some help from the C of E.
Some years ago I reported the very disturbing behaviour of a local church youth leader to the Vicar in charge.
The youth leader had asked me to help him out with some summer activities through the school holidays. The club consisted of around twenty teenagers, mostly 13 -16 year olds. Most of the girls were 13 and 14, most of the boys 15 and 16.
During those weeks  I saw him frequently and deliberately break many child protection rules, some minor, some major. These included him
  • relating to other leaders how he allowed a 13 year old girl to kiss him when they were alone in his bedroom on a church trip:
  • telling a 15 year old girl he would accompany her to the doctors against her parents wishes
  • frequently taking individual teenaged girls into a private room ‘for a chat’ without any other adult being present.
  • making public references to a 15 year old girl’s breasts:
  • refusing to officially pass on any report about a girl who claimed to have taken an overdose
  • instructing the whole youth club to refuse to speak to one boy who he felt had stepped out of line:
  • trying to persuade a teenaged girl alleging historical rape to ditch the counselling provided by the school pastoral team in favour of one-to-one sessions with him.
  • using a knife to puncture a football in temper:
  • ripping the plug off a CD player that he felt was too loud:
  • constant swearing and lewd comments:
  • telling club members who they could and couldn’t text;


There were many other instances involving other teenagers. There was a level of violence, threat and inappropriate behaviour and language which ran throughout the whole culture of the youth club and he had  a dominant and domineering relationship with most of the youth club members which totally usurped the position of parents in their children’s lives.

In most of his dealings with the youth club he operated alone, and any attempts at monitoring by one of the vicars were strongly resisted.There was a suggestion that another youth leader should be employed to work alongside him and he threatened to resign and set up the youth club elsewhere.


I tried to raise the issues I had seen for myself with the youth leader in early September 2005 but got nowhere and I withdrew from helping.
I followed the guidelines set out in the C of E’s own safeguarding manual and reported him to the appointed church safeguarding officer who advised me to report the issues to the vicar in charge of the team of churches, (there were two churches in the team but the youth club was only based at one of them, the one run by the “second-in-command”)
These two ministers, against all procedure, gave the youth leader my name. From that day forward myself and my children were subjected to a vicious campaign of bullying and harassment from the entire youth membership, orchestrated by the leadership.
I was told by an adult in the church that there was a lot of hatred directed towards me and we got phone calls, emails, web postings, internet abuse, and my children were bullied at school. (Most of the youth club members attended the same high school as my children) We even had a death threat!
There was also bullying in the street and at school, both verbally and physically.
Lies and rumours were spread about myself and my children at church and my children’s schools.
Staff at the schools were shocked and disgusted at the way the youth club members acted.
.One Head said he had never seen anything like it in 20+  years of teaching and placed the blame firmly with the youth club leader, who he described as having a very unhealthy control of a lot of impressionable young minds.
I began to learn about some of the lies told about us, in particular at a meeting the minister and youth leader held with the youth club which stirred up some of the worst aggression and hatred to come our way.
No-one was told the details of the incidents I had reported- had they done so, the rest of the youth club and church would have known I was speaking the truth because many of these incidents were witnessed by others.
Instead they were just told I had “said something about the youth leader which had upset him”.
The youth leader told the teenagers in the club that they could only remain in the youth club if they promised to have nothing to do with my children.  He said the members couldn’t be trusted in the youth club if they didn’t shun my children. They had to prove their loyalty to the youth leader by breaking friends with my children.
The leader’s son went to the same school in the same year as my son and kept watch to see that no-one stayed friends with my children. He reported anyone who spoke to my son to his father. This boy’s presence in the school meant that even out of club hours, the youth club members were monitored by the leader’s son who then reported back to his father.
Everyone outside the church who knew about it could see the problem and danger inherent in the situation and were extremely supportive, but within the church there was a wilful blindness to the things I was flagging up as disturbing.
I knew from my own training and profession that his behaviour was disturbing, and well outside the normal guidelines of good practice, but it was as if absolutely no-one inside the diocese cared at all, and there was definitely a sense that when I told them about the way my family were being treated that it was my own fault for speaking out.
I also know that several other church members and parents had their doubts about the inappropriate behaviour of the youth leader but felt they couldn’t come forward after what happened to us as a result.
I appealed on many occasions to the Diocese, including emailing the Bishop direct, but his secretary consistently stonewalled all attempts for help, saying the Bishop was busy, had meetings, or was away, and would not respond.
I consulted a local solicitor about the defamation to my and my family’s character that was a constant feature of our lives at that time, and he wrote to the Bishop on my behalf, asking for him for a meeting. They just ignored his letter.
I spoke to many people during those months as I tried to get someone to defend my children against the bullying and threatening actions of the church “leadership”, which by now included not just the vicar and youth leader, but also several members of the PCC, who had been lied to by the vicar.
Absolutely no-one within the church structure would help.
One of the people I spoke to was Janet Hind, wife of the then Bishop of Chichester, who featured prominently in the recent review.
I was in a different diocese, not  Chichester, but she was the overall head of Child Protection in the Anglican church at the time, and it was felt she could help, if not with the original concerns, then at least with the way my own Diocese were behaving towards my children.
I told her in detail of the original concerns about the youth worker’s behaviour and in even greater detail about the subsequent actions of the team vicar and his second in command which resulted in the campaign of defamation and abuse of me and my family.
She kept talking about the C of E Child Protection policy and procedure, and said that I had definitely done the right thing in reporting what I had seen and that I had gone the right way about it.
I asked her what procedures and policies there were to deal with the aftermath for people who raised concerns and she said there were none, but that they were “working on it”.
This was in 2006, yet from reading the summaries of the current review, it would seem that she and her department in the C of E already knew plenty about the consequences of reporting concerns about bad practice.
They completely failed to protect my children from a deliberate campaign of bullying and emotional abuse orchestrated by the church youth leader and with the full knowledge of the vicars.
This despite me appealing to them, right up to to bishop level, for them to step in and take action to help us.
I totally agree with the findings of the review that the C of E often blamed the victim rather than the abuser.
I certainly found that the policies, such as they were and as far as they went, were only as good as the people implementing them, and the people responsible for protecting children actually had a  default setting which was to protect the institution rather than the victim.
The finding of the review that victims were very often blamed for the abuse was very real to us. In fact, at one point when I was trying to get someone within the church to protect us I asked the vicar why he felt he couldn’t intervene and his reply was “Well what did you expect? You spoke against the youth leader”!
One other attitude that seemed prevalent was that the youth leader’s word was more believable than mine simply because he was in a paid position. I was told they believed his denials without investigation because “he was a paid youth worker”
In all this I appealed countless times to the church authorities at Diocesan level for them to intervene and protect my children but was met with indifference.
In particular it was my experience that their immediate reaction to a complaint was to protect the institution rather than the victim, and to follow that up with a deliberate campaign of threat and villification in order to protect their own positions.
The youth leader remained in post for another ten years, though the youth club dissolved within about twelve months. Several leaders left citing concerns, and some members also left, including some withdrawn by parents.
The vicar retired a few years later and during the interregnum the youth leader established himself even more strongly, controlling pretty much the whole church. There were still no young people, but there were further issues, this time regarding the bullying treatment of some of the more elderly members of the church which had such a bad effect on one lady that her health suffered quite catastrophically. This seemed to shake the church authorities up and at last there was some intervention from the higher echelons of the diocese.
A new vicar arrived and with the support of the Archdeacon tried to wrest back control of the church. The youth leader left under a cloud after a lot of shouting and rowing, taking a large proportion of the congregation with him. The church split.
Quite why the church authorities chose to respond to the concerns about his treatment of adults and not children is anyone’s guess, though it may be that it’s easier to quantify abuse and its effects on adults, who can relate and put into context what has happened.
With children, it takes time for them to process what has happened, and then articulate the details and the effects. I think that’s why so many of these abuse cases are historic- the passage of time helps the victims to acquire the necessary vocabulary and comprehension.
Hopefully, in our case, as the youth club members reach maturity they will realise just how disturbing and inappropriate the man’s behaviour was. Maybe they will even speak out and report him themselves.
I always imagined that the church would spring to the defence of children under attack, but instead the behaviour of the church authorities compounded the problem.
Long-established relationships broke down and many friendships were lost irretrievably.
These were the direct consequences of mishandling and malevolence.
I must state, though, that behaviour such as that wasn’t God, it was His representatives.
I wish the review team every success in trying to get to the bottom of this, and feel very sorry for anyone else who has tried to blow the whistle in support of vulnerable people and have ended up victims themselves.

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Brexit 2 : Are we in the middle of a coup?

Are we in the middle of a coup? I know when we hear of a coup in other countries we usually think of military intervention, tanks,  soldiers, fighting in the streets etc..

But when you think about it, all that is needed for a coup is to control government, media, security services, bank, a nominal head (the acceptable face) and very often, bolstering from abroad.

If we analyse the state of the UK at present, all these features are there.

  • the Brexit power-grab at Westminster under the guise of administrative ease
  •  The paying of an unauthorised and unbudgeted £2 billion to the DUP to cling on to a tiny majority in the chamber
  • the weighting of Parliamentary committees so that all those associated with Brexit have Tory majorities
  • the playing the system so that Tories refuse to debate Opposition motions thereby avoiding a (nominal) defeat
  • filling the House of Lords (the constitutional safety-net) with more Tory peers than their slim majority merits
  • shoring up Theresa May as the ‘acceptable face’, the puppet leader while the string-pullers operate under the radar.
  • the blurring of boundaries between politicians and the very rich City financiers
  • the control of the media


All these are political tricks that go against the true spirit of democracy and the notion of all people having a voice and being represented.

The problem with our constitution is that much of it is set within the framework of a gentleman’s agreement, and sadly Parliament currently has too few real gentlemen/women to ensure that the democracy is delivered as it was intended.

The absence of tanks in the streets and soldiers on every street corner does not mean we are free. If our government is not representative and transparent, if we aren’t free to choose, to think for ourselves. to be told the truth,  and perhaps most crucially , to change our minds, then we aren’t free at all.

We can be invaded as much by manipulation as by force. It’s called coercion, and all the signs are there.

Mass-manipulation needs a mantra, and Brexit has a particular one that is starting to sound increasingly hollow – “deliver Brexit for the will of the people”.

This consists of two parts of the same lie.

Deception 1: “Delivering Brexit”

The phenomenon of “Brexit” has never been defined. It has always consisted of wish, whim, and fancy. Brexit has meant whatever the particular voter wants it to mean, so for some it’s control of immigration, for others it’s control of our laws…or money…..or borders. Brexiteers trot these out at regular intervals, usually as individual wishes, but on some occasions, as a full set. Yet none stand up to scrutiny.  It is becoming crystal clear that being in the EU has had no restriction on our borders, money, laws, or anything else.  And if Brexit can’t be defined, how can it be delivered?

Deception 2: Will of the People

The vote was so close that statistically there was no winner. Statisticians like to include a margin of error of 50:50 +/-1.9%) and the referendum result was Leave 51.89% Remain 48.11% . Furthermore, if we include those who were eligible to vote but were not allowed to vote (those in UK from other EU nations, and those UK citizens in other EU  countries} and also those who chose not to vote, the actual percentage who voted to Leave is around 37%. That isn’t a win even in an honest campaign. But factor in the wave of lies and the overwhelming likelihood is that there would have been a considerably lower percentage voting to Leave. The other wave of manipulation (Cambridge Analytica etc.) is only just emerging and no doubt there is plenty more to come.

What is beyond doubt is that the Brexit camp can no longer with any credibility whatsoever claim that Leave is the will of the people.

The desperation with which Brexiteers are refusing a second referendum, even in the face of evidence of lying and manipulation from outside the UK is a measure of how little regard they have for the electorate. It’s power by any means, and that is the very essence of a coup.

The  fact that it is being achieved from behind computer keyboards by committees and think-tanks makes it no less an affront to freedom.







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Brexit 1: deceived

So, eleven months after the June 2016 referendum and we’ve got a divided party in government with a tiny majority, led by an unelected leader who doesn’t consult with her own cabinet and who is also the country’s unelected Prime Minister.

The country voted only marginally to leave the EU . In real terms it was just 37.5% in favour of leaving (26% adjusted to include whole population).

Any reasonable person can see that this no mandate for change, let alone a constitutional change on such an unprecedented scale.

It’s impossible to overlook the fact that the referendum was badly conceived, the question on the ballot paper too simplistic, and the Leave campaign too dishonest.

There was no room for the electorate to express an opinion on how hard or soft we wanted Brexit to be. We were assured that our place in the single-market was secure. We were told that businesses the world over were just waiting with bated breath for us to shake off the shackles of EU so they could make us richer and bigger and better,

Those of us who doubted that outside the  EU we had that much influence were told we were unpatriotic.

It was stated many times that our trade agreements. once renegotiated, would be as good as, if not better, than they currently are, and that the rest of the world, including USA were queueing up to do business with us.

Warnings from banks and corporations about the likely impact of Brexit were downplayed, with the electorate being told to ignore such negativity. Michael Gove said that Britain had ‘had enough’ of experts. People who raised concerns were told to stop talking the country down.


And so we got Brexit –  or at least 37.5% of the adult population got Brexit for the rest of us. That means that 62.5%  did NOT say yes. Add to that the younger members of society who were too young to vote but who will spend their working lives paying for this, and you’ve got even less of a mandate.

For an excellent analysis of the result see the LSE blog


Surely no fair-minded person could expect this result to be acted upon.

But that was shock number two – a referendum that in legal terms was just an advisory mechanism was suddenly claimed by Brexiteers as a legally binding result. All normal debate was shut down, those appealing for caution and calm consideration were shouted down, doubters were mocked relentlessly. Theresa May,  unelected PM, then made a series of announcements about Brexit, choosing to lead the country down a hard Brexit route, for which she had no mandate at all. We were informed we were leaving the single market, leaving the customs union, maybe stopping exchange of terrorism information, may become a tax-haven, no deal a possibility. 


So what now? Well, not much real trade has materialised and US has said it will negotiate with EU first and UK second. We are leaving not just the single market but also the customs union, making trading with us more complex and expensive.  Banks, businesses, money are being moved away out of UK and our country has a diminishing profile in world events. Migrants settled in this country are beginning to leave in order to protect their own futures, leaving us with a skill shortage that will take at least one school generation to make up. Our economic outlook is unknown, and our global influence reduced.

Brexit politicians have strutted and postured and threatened as if we still had an Empire, and so far it has been met with intransigence, frustration, derision, and scorn. And the negotiations haven’t even started! In fact, we haven’t even started negotiations about the negotiations!

Nearly a year after the referendum and with less than two years to go before we leave, our lead negotiator, David Davies, admits UK has not assessed impact of Brexit without Brussels deal.


But by far the biggest problem with leaving the EU is the long term damage it has already done to our relationships with our closest neighbours and allies.

Constitutional change generally results in something that affects this country alone ie: we can always revert if we change our minds. If we effect a constitutional change that turns out to be unwise or not fit for purpose we simply have to make another constitutional change to restore the status quo. Inconvenient but not disastrous.

However, in the case of Brexit we are dragging along our allies and legal partners into the mess, and any rethink will require their co-operation.

Politicians keep likening it to a divorce or legal separation. To continue that analogy I think we need to think of the normal constitutional change that affects only our country as similar to redecorating the family home or changing the furniture – if it doesn’t work we can redo it all. Inconvenient but not disastrous.

But if we start sending out divorce papers to our partner and negotiating terms of separartion and division of assets etc., we need the co-operation of the partner we’ve just ditched in order to negotiate a settlement, and frankly, they may not want to co-operate. They are unlikely to willingly give us what we want in financial negotiations, and should we then change our minds and want to reunite and save the partnership, they are unlikely to agree to that either.

Translate that to our EU negotiations and all our pleadings and threats and cajolings are likely to be in vain. The remaining EU countries are simply not going to give us anything like the benefits we had as a member state,: it woudn’t be in their own interests for one thing, and the bottom line is – why on earth would they? Despite the Brexit campaigners assurances to the contrary, the EU simply does not need us as much as we need them.

Indeed, there are already signs that EU is giving up on us -these remarks by Angela Merkel have been reported world-wide:


Is this really the reputation we want for our country?

The whole Leave campaigns (both of them) were based on lies, manipulations, and fear-mongering. Politicians who should have known better cynically went out of their way to lure and manipulate and the Brexit vote was in response to being fed a pack of lies by the Brexit campaigners.

We have a situation where the country is facing ruin on the whim of  some very misguided people.

This unelected PM then tried everything she could to avoid giving the elected Parliament a voice in the decisions, backing down only when ordered to do so by the High Court. These independent judges were than villified in the press for simply doing their jobs in upholding the constitutional rule of law in the public’s interests.

And the ultimate irony? Brxit was supposed to be about regaining ‘sovereignty’.

In order to achieve this the British government is high-handedly bypassing the sovereignty of Parliament and taking the country down a perilous path without their knowledge or consent. There’s a word for that.

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First they came for………

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


It’s very easy to stay silent often through fear or apathy. In these days of protectionism and self-interest it is increasingly difficult to stand against the tidal wave of unconcern and disinterestedness.

But in these unpredictable and unsafe times, when confusion and suspicion exist at every turn, it is more important than ever to be vigilant and vocal.   Niemoller’s words have many applications  but all deal with the danger of staying quiet in the face of wrong-doing just because it initially doesn’t affect our own lives.

Whatever our own place in society we need to stand up for anyone suffering persecution. Support the unsupported and defend the defenceless. Protest about the neglect and mistreatment of minorities. Protest about the scapegoating of the vulnerable. Object to discrimination against anyone.

Don’t blindly follow the mainstream. We need to think for ourselves and not be easily influenced.

Examine everything, Accept nothing without being informed.

Challenge the accepted systems, the dominant paradigms, and be prepared to change what doesn’t work. And do it all with a clear voice. Speak out!