Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content
 

We Must Have Faith for Maddie

Wednesday 19th September 2007

The Archbishop of York writes in The Sun

NEXT week a new campaign to find Madeleine McCann will be launched by her family and their supporters.

At that time, there will be some who whisper that the campaign is nothing more than a smokescreen by Maddie's parents to detract attention from themselves.

Such whisperers should hang their heads in shame.

It is a long established principle of English law, dating back to the 16th century, that the accused is innocent until proven guilty.

This vital principle of innocence has its roots in ancient times.

In 359AD a trial took place where a local governor, Numerius of Narbonne, was accused of raiding his own coffers.

There was little proof but that didn't stop the whispers and accusations.

Still, the prosecutor was convinced the governor was guilty and said as much to the judge, the Roman Emperor Julian.

At his trial, the governor denied the charges and the case was due to be dismissed.

The prosecutor was furious: "Oh, illustrious Caesar," he raged, "If it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?" Emperor Julian's response has been repeated in countless trials for the past 1600 years: "If it suffices to accuse, what then will become of the innocent?"

It is not the first time the idea of the presumption of innocence appears in history, but it is a good summary of the principle: Accusations of guilt are not enough unless you can prove them.

With innocence we must also couple the need for evidence with which a reasonable jury is likely to convict prior to accusation.

These are lessons which our own police service learnt anew in the investigations into the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and Damilola Taylor.

Many of these measures now form best practice but have been lacking in the current inquiry: The need for family liaison and support between the police and the family, rather than accusations and leaks; questioning which is objective and does not lead to entrapment; crime scenes forensically sealed and reviewed, rather than left for days to be contaminated; and police investigations being reviewed by someone outside the team every 14 days. But in many ways all of this misses the point.

The point is that the trial of the McCanns by the media should never have happened.

Unless a body is discovered, this remains an investigation into a missing person.

The ancients said that "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness".

The candle of hope that still burns in my chapel is that Maddie might be found.

If all the energy put into speculating about Gerry and Kate was instead dedicated to finding Maddie, who knows where we might be right now?

Speculation will not help. Evidence and witnesses will.

Finding Madeleine must again be the priority and focus of the police and of each of us.

Our focus must again be upon the love of the parents for their lost daughter, for their hope that they may one day be reunited with her and for their faith that she is still alive.

These must be our watchwords — faith, hope and love. For as St Paul once wrote, "in the end it is these three which remain: Faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

Back · Back to top