The Carl Beech case hit the headlines again last week. A report was published which described in detail the errors the police had made in investigating Carl’s allegations about a high level paedophile ring. Scotland Yard, and the Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson, both came in for some strong criticism.
Whilst there were no doubt things that could have been differently, the issues at the heart of this case remain credibility and belief. When someone makes an allegation, what is our instinctive response and then what is our organisational and professional expectation? Are they one and the same? The church’s approach is to believe what we are told, what we see and hear, whilst at the same time in our training we stress the need for respectful uncertainty. Are they compatible?
Of course they are. As our President wrote in the Times on Saturday, we can hold two positions or contrasting convictions. It’s really how we go about our business of recognising what we are witnessing, listening with care, making careful notes and checking things out with a supervisor or experienced colleague. If we do this in a real sense of Christian love, matched with other fruits of the spirit and a good dollop of common sense we can ensure that we start our encounters with survivors from a strong conviction of belief. This is critically important so as to provide that essential reassurance at the outset. It’s the start of a journey that will no doubt have a number of twists and turns along the way, but the right approach, first time and every time will pay dividends for all involved.
Speaking of belief, some aficionados of South London football can’t quite believe the current form of the team from SE25. Who knows where this journey will end either! It’s going to be about being alert, having conviction, keeping the faith and not getting deterred. Pretty much the same recipe as responding well to the needs of survivors.