Crown Court 2008
In the Springtime.
By Ray Gosling
The “damage” is done at the first day when the accuser has his turn and gosh it was drama in the court when Jason went for Fr. John.
It is that first day that is the cracker. That is the first day you can get on: because often judges will have overrunning matters and other matters to attend to – and you won’t get on. And then the defence or the prosecution will be without this or that. And then there may be legal matters as to who or who not can be called to give witness in person, or in writing. But almost so suddenly, almost magically the case is on – and the jury are in – and you know. Call the first witness.
For the first day, the first real day is prosecution principal witness day – and the accuser is oh in this case Jason v the Vicar. When he strode in, straight to the witness box and taking The Bible – you knew Jason, he was no a frit lad and not unacquainted with matters of courts: clear as could be – Jason was on and Jason was going to have his day – and phew ! – drama and some did he. There was Effing and Blinding and finger pointing and screaming from the top range of Jason’s voice At one stage the judge (a very modern judge) threw up his hands, waving them and crying out himself something like “gentlemen gentlemen please lets have ten minutes to “cool off” - a pause for calming: please please – I’m adjourning the court for ten minutes” And he just strode out: the judge.
Oh - but the press had the field day. Of course their ears were all apeeked, pens aflowing and in “cool off” - mobiles at it and the headlines ensued.
GOD HELP YOU GOD HELP YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’VE F****** DONE TO ME
If there had been photographs of Jason to accompany the headlines, The Vicar might well have been lynched – for Jason was an extraordinarily beautiful young man. But you don’t/ you can’t. An accuser is protected by anonymity to scream and shout – and the outbursts are permitted to be reported in big letters in the papers - ABUSE VICTIM TELLS PRIEST: GOD HELP YOU. Tells ? yells was more like it. Jason was the full operatic repertoire of outburst with encores each time we went back into court - HE WAS LIKE A GRANDFATHER TO ME and then the mood swings and it’s fingers fists tears screaming GOD HELP YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE and another of the adjournments. Then encore. WHY WHY THAT’S ALL I WANT TO KNOW, THEN I WILL GO. YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW MUCH YOU HAVE DONE TO ME “Jason: Jason” the judge would plead – to no avail. YOU’RE A MAN OF THE CLOTH. GOD HELP YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE
Jason was THE witness. There was one other – but a bit wilting - very minor.
And in the end – a fortnight later – the jury verdict was not guilty, and the accused left the dock. But by then of course – 12 days later, the vicar had had loads of photos of himself in the papers and the lurid headlines from Jason’s accusations. And remember in these cases the Vicar was 60 – so events if they had happened were when Vicar was a fit 45 – fifteen years ago. The Vicar looked down now in his raincoat with his collar and tie entering crown court – sad, old, stooped “dirty old man”. you can hear people in pubs a mutter And worse. Whereas when he was 45 he’d have been in biretta, cassock and THE man of the neighbourhood – because that’s what he was at age of 45.
But I could understand it – the whole business – moment he strode in to take the stand this Jason was just beautiful – bright eyed, alert with a neat bum, narrow waist, muscled body, fine face even now he’s 31 years old you can, anyone can, see at the age of 11, 14. 16 and now at 30 he’d be stunning. He strode in so strongly Jason just a stunner – so beautiful like a Dolce et Gabbana model in a bus shelter poster albeit his clothes were Primark and scruffed he was and had been. Stunning in court. Stunning in the Vicarage. Stunning at his times in prison. .
At the first court lunch break, after Jason started, I crossed out with Allan to the pub and said “He did it. ? ” “Did he ?” “Might have” “I think so,” said me and Allan to me “Maybe”. But if he did the “it” wouldn't have amounted to much. According to our lights.
Between the outbursts, sometimes hysterical outbursts from Jason it was not that difficult for the prosecuting barrister to clearly set out allegations for the jury to understand. Jason alleged that when he was 12 or so the Vicar had in the vicarage asked him to come to the sofa and sit on his (Fr. John’s) knee. Jason did this and the vicar put his hand up his trouser leg and wanked him off. There were about 11/ 12 charges. Another was that the Vicar had taken Jason to London to a boxing event and while staying at an Anglo-Catholic vicarage of a friend of Fr. John’s the Vicar had there wanked Jason off. There had been a trip to Lourdes and again some cuddle and a wank of Jason had happened there. I forget what the word used for wank was. But a wank is not a rape.
Inappropriate touching/ an indecent act. Jason kept going round to the vicarage, so he must have liked it – then – for there was no suggestion AT ALL of any force of any kind: nor of any bribery: treats to Jason from the Vicar. So if all the allegations were true – it didn’t amount to much: not by my book. But it took two days in court with Jason.
There was then cross examination On about Day Three Jason had to face the defence - which was fierce. Excellent. Defence are now at last in many of these cases getting their act together. So are juries wising up. Of course I would have liked the defence to say “it didn’t amount to much” and “you liked it, didn’t you?” – but they’re not going to do that. What they did do was the dates and times for everything were mixed up in Jason’s evidence. But then it’s bound to be – fifteen years ago. But this is the important bit – constantly the defence returned to this rub/ this argument – like a rapier “You’re making these allegations because you want the money available in compensation.”
As everyone knows there is money – several thousands of pounds available from the state for victims of “abuse” - so much for a buggery, so much for a touching and so much for having been wanked off – and it’s all secret. Taxed ? I don’t know.
But Jason not unacquainted with jail-talk or streetwise druggie rap knew the answers to that, from the defence – again and again he outbursted. Strong and clearly, every time it was raised “No no no”
And defence would say fiercely but calming and quietly – “You’re init for the money – admit it Jason”
Jason would scream back “I’m not in this for any f****** money. No no no.” - he screamed – he wanted that man (pointing at Fr. John) to go to prison because he ruined my life – and how many other lives has he ruined. – he’ll answer in the after life.”
Very impressive I thought but enough clearly of the jurors would not at the end of the trial be convinced. So, it went eventually, not guilty.
There we are. I was convinced – that summat had happened or whatever in Jason’s head he’d thought or come to think summat happened. Clicked off years later – so Jason blamed now all his misfortunes and missed turnings in life – on this Vicar who touched him. Or maybe the Vicar he wanted to touch him - a bit more than the Vicar did. If he did.
Then there was the back up.
Prosecution called Jason’s Mum – he’d been a difficult child, and she’d split from the father so she was glad he went round to see the Vicar. Oh – and Jason had always told lies.
Then there was Jason’s current girl friend, who when she first went out with Jason hadn’t realised he was on drugs until they were living together. She was very traumatised by the dying of her own father at his age of 50, and one night a year after her Dad had died, she got again overcome with grief for her dead Dad in the bedroom with Jason. Jason snapped and said something like “Why you get a cob on – I’ll tell you what trauma is – a Vicar messed with me…” Though it was only in general terms Jason talked of what had, according to him, happened.
Ah dear – twas all very clear – clearer and clearer to me.
Day three – what was Day 3 – ah we had another prosecution witness – the only other one. He was a pal of Jason’s – well had been. They were in the Vicarage together – in the same gang – in boxing together. And one afternoon behind the settee, this lad, now ex-lad, said he’d sucked the Vicar's cock It lasted about 30 seconds. Vicar didn't ejaculate. When asked why he did it, he said he didn’t know how he got into this situation. The Vicar hadn't asked him to – just did. He was a dreamy sort of lad – ex-lad.
Usually in these cases the prosecution like to come up with loads – to prove the accused guy is a danger. The police/ child protection etcetera had clearly put a lot of money into this case – and they were there in court at every opportunity. The policewoman gave evidence how Jason was interviewed and interviewed and interviewed. Specialist officers were brought in. And I would think a trawl was done of all those lads now ex-lads who’d known the Vicar 20 years ago – but they’d failed. Indeed one they called on, the policewoman said from the witness box told me to F off. Shut door in my face.
It was the defence when they started on Day Four who had done a trawl – and whoops a daisy – it was very impressive. But first of all we had the Vicar. He’d never done it – nothing like the wanking ever happened. Maybe it didn’t. The Vicar didn’t understand why Jason was making now these accusations. Jason was bright, but from a broken home – and he’d encouraged him. And let him stay overnight – in one of the spare bedrooms. And encouraged his boxing – and then one day some money went missing from the jacket or the hassock of an adult altar server in the vestry and the suspicion fell on Jason. He told him off – the Vicar did. No he did not make him kneel for two hours naked in front of the altar, as Jason had claimed. Anyway shortly after that Jason changed boxing clubs and didn’t come to church any more. The Vicar called to see Jason’s Mum but she didn’t know why – and that was that. It was a busy parish.
It was also a help I think throughout the trial to have a public gallery full with a mass of churchgoers making every opportunity to gasp at this and tut at that and show confidence in HIM – the Vicar they loved.
No he was not homosexual. He himself said on the stand. It was a poor inner city district and he helped where he could. It was a large vicarage.
But then came – oh we’d be day five by now – a trail of other ex-lads.
It was a defence by volume. So often in these cases we listen to they are prosecution by volume. That’s how CPS do it as a norm with “corroboration by volume” – get as many complainants in as poss and some of the muck’ll stick - but this time the defence had the volume. They had done a little trawl – well quite a big one. A parade of defence witnesses who all said when they were lads they had stayed over at the Vicarage and nowt happened to them. And often Jason was there. He was mischievous but they saw no sign of the Vicar favouring him. It was v v good the defence. Many lads had been taken to London by the Vicar to boxing events and nothing untoward happened. Same room as the Vicar – separate beds, but nothing untoward happened. Gone with the Vicar to Lourdes and no sex. Indeed Jason had been there with them and the Vicar but it’d be nigh impossible for any sex to have happened because the Vicar there was so busy. .
But as they paraded in and out of the box I noted these lads/ ex-lads were all puddings or posh. Not a speck to challenge Jason’s street wise unbelievable enticing mischievous beauty fit or wit.
Prosecution had cottoned on – for in cross examination they prised out again and again – these defence boys/ witnesses did not normally stay overnight at the Vicarage because they came from good homes they went to their own homes to bed – and they would not have necessarily known Jason was staying over. The prosecution cross examining proved they’d all known Jason, and Jason was there a lot – and although he was not treated openly in any special way by the Vicar, Jason was a “special one”: more mischievous: wild. The prosecution had spotted that and that would crop up in their summing up – that the Vicar had targeted Jason, indeed groomed Jason specifically because he was more vulnerable, because he was from a broken home.
Too talented, too fit, too pretty the unfathered Jason would have been I’d have suggested on his own at that early age on some pretence creeping into the Vicar’s bed. Who was stalking who ? There was no evidence the Vicar was a predatory paedophile. Indeed Jason himself said the Vicar asked him to sit on his knee . “I asked him why ?” “So I can give you a cuddle” said the Vicar, according to Jason who continued “I did not take it in a bad way. I took it as a nice gesture.” Jason himself described how sleeping at night in a guest bedroom in this big Victorian house he’d seen ghosts And Jason ran into the Vicar’s bedroom to cry and cuddle the Vicar saying “I’m frightened.” And he was drop dead gorgeous.
I remember a Vicar of my youth would say to me “Doing anything after scouts – if not you could come round to the vicarage, if you like.” – And he’d sit me on his knee while playing recordings of Vaughan Williams and Stravinsky which I liked and wank me off. No he never ever did he take his clothes off: expose any part of himself... That’s all it was and when I’d come he’d say “There – feel better now ?” and I did. A relief I suppose. Did I tell Mum and Dad ? No: what point.
Why didn’t Jason tell his family ? He was asked when he took the stand. Ah – because he was ashamed and then became a heroin addict because of the abuse. He bottled it up until his girl friend's grief triggered it out, all these years later. Jason's version. Jason had regarded the Vicar as a grandfather figure. Right.
All clear enough to me. Before the summing up I'd got the picture. Jason aged 9 or 10 started going to the church. It was then a very busy and popular inner city church. Lots of lads he knew where he lived and where he went to school went there – for a variety of activities. Jason's Mum then moved, about 2 miles away, but Jason carried on at the church. He liked it. Liked the theatricals of High Church – swing the incense, ring the bells and the vicar encouraged him to take up boxing which he was nifty at and enjoyed. He was a boxer with promise. He had no Dad at home. His Mum didn't want him hanging around – she'd a new fellow: step-Dad to Jason who Jason didn't care for much.
The vicarage was fun – a big Victorian vicarage, and Jason was fond and appreciative of the Vicar's encouragement, care, and attention – and letting him stay over. He was taken to London to boxing events, and abroad. He was the apple of the Vicar's eye ? Not necessarily. And hands I daresay – dare you ? - no – the jury would not go as far as beyond all reasonable doubt. Nor would I. The Vicar might have been a sexual naive.
But matters snapped when Jason was 14/ 15.
Puberty ? Bit late. There was the incident of the theft in the vestry when the finger of suspicion pointed at Jason. He was dragged out of school and made by the Vicar to kneel naked in front of the altar for two hours: according to Jason. No one quite believed that story – though obviously Jason would have had a severe ticking off from the Vicar – who was no wimp but a big bloke. He moved school ? He moved boxing clubs ? He fell in with a new crowd – whatever – he fell away from church, the Vicar and there. Quickly there were drugs, and serious thieving By 15/16 Y.O.I. - Youth Offenders Institution. Shoplifting. Fighting – in and out of nick . Nicked again and again until aged 27 he met this girl and clicked. But then girl's Dad died – and when she broke down in the bedroom he told this the story of Jason and the Vicar. True or false. How would anyone know – after 15 years, what were you doing and what were the reasons for it. And the reasons now for telling the story with what embroidery ? I know there is the recovered memory syndrome. We've had lot of cases of that. But it's dubious, to me mind. I know the policewoman in charge in this case spent many hours in many interviews with Jason to get a “true picture”. A true picture did not emerge. Was it something in that bedroom between Jason and his girl – Jason's sexual performance ? Jason's temper ? How on earth are you going to get that out.
Whatever, suddenly Jason had an alibi, an excuse for all his failings and missed chances – that Vicar. “You want to know why I fly off the handle...why I'm on drugs – it's him – the Vicar”. What's the line in Shakespeare – hell hath no fury like a woman, a lover spurned. The Vicar was to blame.
“You got to tell the police,” said Jason's girl and that was duly done and the police suddenly were sympathetic to Jason. There was counselling. There was methadone to replace the heroin. There was help to put his life back together – with the girl as the goodie and The Vicar as the devil.
The Vicar was naive, of course but it was 15 years ago. At one stage – I've forgotten whether it was prosecution or defence asked him – would he behave like he did, if it were today ? Sleeping in the same room with a boy: in the same bed once with a frightened Jason. Once that was by both sides admitted. Leaving his doors open – they were always open at the vicarage. No – he wouldn't was the reply – not since the child abuse cases. No. And I thought to myself how sad that world has gone. How sad for lads like Jason, there will be no cuddles in the 21st century.
When I was a kid of 11/ 12 we got a new curate at our church – and I remember my mother saying “is he married ? “ And my Dad who was a churchwarden said “We don't think so” And my mother replied - “Thank goodness for that, he'll have more time for the boys.”
Oh in Fr. John's vicarage there were girls, women, the old – almost always from morning to night the vicarage would be busy with comings and goings. He was the Lord Mayor's chaplain – civic leaders came to the witness stand to give praise. It was a busy. busy inner city parish – and Fr. John THE man – school governor, in with this, in with that. And I thought to myself, these days I walk by some vicarages that are like fortresses.
The Church may have cut out child abuse – some of which undoubtedly did exist – but at a cost to the Jason's of today.
The jury's result was published in a couple of lines in that papers. The damage had been done. The Vicar had already moved to another part of the country. Jason's anonymity was protected and whether or not he got compensation money we shall never know.
And to be done about the general situation ?
Well some curb on women – they are often the leaders from the girlfriend, to the police investigation team, the CPS – in this case.
And Esther Rantzen. Whoops – can't get away with that. It is as if the fact a man / a lad might have had some homosexual tarry tiddle is an afront to womanhood. To paraphrase Baden Powell - Young spunk has not gone where it was intended by God to go. Well – it's 2008 and we have a lot of laws to say thou shalt not., and yet on the top and bottom shelf of almost every newsagent there's stacks of porn. Society should accept a certain amount of sexual experiment. It’s going to happen – Iraq, Iran and among what might be called British “children”. Not sure that's going to go.
So let me try the theory of a time limitation on these kinds of trials. Where the offence is not rape or with force – but just light. I mean Jason and the Vicar was 12 days in court – how much money that ?
In most land of Germany, and other European countries, most provinces of Canada, and a majority of states in the USA, there are statutes of limitation that say within 5 or 10 years after the alleged offence, or after the “victim” reaches the age of consent be that 16/ 18/ 21 – whatever – then forget it.