One thing we’ve learned about trials (in our vast data-set of two) is that if something can go wrong it will. Oh, and things always take longer than one expects them to. Such was the case today during Sabine McNeill’s trial on four counts of stalking and 17 counts of violating a restraining order.
Witness 2: Mr Greenwood
Following yesterday’s testimony from Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, today the court heard from Mr Greenwood, a solicitor who is involved with assisting sexual abuse survivors who work with and lobby the Church of England and the Catholic Church.
Greenwood spoke via a live link to the court, as he was not able to attend in person today.
In answer to questions from Miranda Moore QC, Greenwood agreed that he had been present during the meeting of the Anglican Synod in February 2018, and that he had seen 15 to 20 protestors there. Some he knew through the survivors’ organisation; others were unfamiliar to him.
Greenwood stated that he remembers speaking with Sabine McNeill quite early in the day—perhaps 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. He said that Sabine appeared to have some sort of problem with “being persecuted”, and that she wanted his help as a solicitor to do something about that.
He and Sabine had a brief conversation, during which she handed him a sheaf of paper, which he agreed to read with a view to seeing whether he could help her.
“She mentioned some sort of injunction”, he noted.
Moore asked whether Greenwood had seen where Sabine got the papers; he stated he had not.
He had, however, provided police with scanned copies of the papers, and had retained the original. Moore asked him to read what he had written in a corner of one sheet of paper:
DGR spoke to this lady outside Church House. I can’t help her; she needs to talk to her own criminal lawyers.
Greenwood explained that “DGR” is the abbreviation of his own name which he uses at work. He also said that the note had been a “note to self”, and that he had not had time to read the document in detail.
He agreed with Moore that one document ran four pages, and that it ended with a list of “key supporters’ websites”. A second document ran eight pages (seven including a title page), and was a document by Dr Linda Stalley of the Maranatha Community.
“Was there another person present that day who was giving leaflets out?” Moore asked.
Greenwood confirmed that a young man had been doing so, and that he had retained the original document handed to him by the young man. It was single-sided and printed on A5 paper.
Greenwood’s note to himself at the top of this document read, “DGR spoke to young man who handed me this outside Church House. He had some weird ideas about water”.
Greenwood explained that he had talked to the young man, who had been “trying to tell me that water had supernatural properties and should be used to help people”. He added, “I had to humour him”.
Asked whether he had offered to assist the young man, Greenwood said, “I couldn’t see that I could help him”.
At this point, the live feed froze, and court had to be adjourned for about 20 minutes while the technical issue was dealt with.
Moore asked Greenwood whether, having read her documents, he had offered any help to Sabine or the young man.
“No”, he replied. “I found the issue outside my area of expertise”.
“Did you say you would look at it and get in touch?” Moore asked.
“I was contacted by email before I could contact her”, Greenwood said. “I told her friend that I couldn’t help, and asked him to pass the message on”.
Greenwood confirmed that after speaking with him, Sabine had spoken with others in his group, and that she had been with them at least half an hour. The other group members included another solicitor, clergy, and survivors of sexual abuse. Greenwood said that he had not heard the topic of conversation between Sabine and these others.
Tana Adkin QC asked Greenwood whether he had met Sabine before the Synod sitting; he responded that he had. He said that he had not heard her mention to others in his group that she was looking for a solicitor.
Adkin asked whether another solicitor named Richard Scorer had been a member of his group; Greenwood replied that he had.
In response to Adkin’s question, Greenwood stated that he had not seen the young man at the time when he saw Sabine.
Freeze frame 2.0
At this point, the live feed was breaking up so badly that it was impossible to continue the cross-examination. HHJ Sally Cahill QC called a halt, and said that arrangements would have to be made for Greenwood to finish his testimony in person as and when he could be fit into the schedule.
Judge Cahill expressed her displeasure with the technical situation, and requested that enquiries be made to determine the source of the problem.
Witness 3: Heather Reid
Heather Reid took the witness box and stated that she is Deputy National Safeguarding Advisor with the Church of England. In that capacity, she works from Church House in Dean’s Yard.
Moore asked whether Reid had been involved with Synod in February 2018, and she confirmed that she had. As part of her involvement, she helped to staff a space for survivors of sexual abuse to gather following their vigil at Synod, prior to the actual Synod meeting.
“I was there as a member of the Safeguarding team”, she said. “I was supporting people and talking to them”.
Moore asked, “Do you remember a lady with a foreign accent approaching you?”
Reid said that she did, though she could not remember how she had approached her. Moore noted that Reid had supplied two pieces of evidence, comprising the documents Sabine had been handing out.
In answer to Moore’s questions, Reid said that Sabine had initially been on her own, and had then been joined by a young man, later identified as Jake Clarke. She said that they expressed concerns about Satanic abuse which they said had taken place at a school and church, and that there had been a cover-up.
Reid said that once Jake Clarke arrived, he had done a lot of the talking, but that Sabine had still been present.
“What was Jake talking about?” Moore asked.
“Something about Satanic abuse and a cover-up”, Reid said, noting that prior to that day she had not been aware of the case Jake and Sabine were talking about.
Asked whether Hampstead would have been within her purview as Deputy National Safeguarding Advisor, Reid said that it would not, as Christ Church Hampstead was in the diocese of London.
“It would have been for the diocesan advisor to be involved”, she said. This information, she confirmed, is available on the diocesan website.
Reid said that when Sabine handed her the documents, it was the first time she had heard the allegations about Christ Church. She reported the situation to the diocese. She confirmed that she had further correspondence with Jake, consisting of a range of emails.
She stated that she had seen Jake handing out leaflets to others in the area for vigil participants.
In cross-examination by Adkin, Reid said she did not recall whether the solicitors Greenwood and Scorer had been present in the event space while she was there.
She confirmed that at the Synod meeting itself, while members of the public may go inside, they are not allowed to take part; they are to observe the proceedings only. She said that while she’d been in the Synod meeting that day, she did recall somebody standing up in the gallery.
Adkin asked whether Sabine had been seeking Reid out at the time when they spoke; Reid said she could not remember how Sabine had come into her presence.
Following the lunch break, a third witness took the box. Due to the reporting restrictions which prevent us mentioning anything which might lead to the identification of any child named in the case, we are unable to provide details of what this witness said.
Following this person’s testimony and cross-examination, court ended for the day at 3:00 p.m.
Tomorrow we expect to hear from another witness; their testimony is anticipated to take up the full day.