The Most Reverend Jonathan Blake B.A. Hons Theol. Dip. P.S.
His inspiration came from his own experience which is detailed below.
A Welling Bishop was arrested and thrown into a cell on Thursday/Friday, January 29th/30th 2009 after photographing his children reading on a rooftop for a school project, in the latest example of brutal policing in the nanny state.
Bishop Jonathan Blake was left in a bloodstained cell over night for alleged ‘child neglect’ before being released without charge. He is launching a campaign against the increasingly thuggish policing which has accompanied the steady erosion of British civil liberties.
He said: “I am campaigning for a change to the modern method of feral policing where gangs of police roam in vans, where they act with brutal insensitivity, where the old values of honesty and professional integrity have been lost, and where calls to stop violence and imminent crime often go unanswered while a malicious phonecall can prompt the happy family home of a local cleric to be torn apart.”
The father of five took two of his sons Nathan, eight, and Dominic, seven, on to the roof of their family home for a book week project which involved being photographed reading in the most original place possible.
The two boys, who are used to rock climbing and adventure sports, were guided one by one up a series of safe footholds while attached to a secure harness. They then sat reading on the flat roof strapped to the rising chimney while their father took a photograph.
Nathan said: “I went up and dad made stepping stones for us and it was really exciting. I was surprised to see there was a landing place on top of the roof. And then Dad hoisted me up on the roof, and all the time I had a rope securely round me and between my legs. It was great fun. It was really exciting.”
But after the children had come down safely from the roof and were happily playing inside, events took an unpleasant turn. After a malicious report from a neighbour, who objects to Bishop Blake’s willingness to provide inclusive Christian ministry, the road was filled with emergency vehicles and the house was stormed by police.
The Bishop, whose legendary Christmas lights display has just raised £1240 for Save the Children, was arrested for child neglect.
A Police officer punched him in the back as he was preparing to accompany them peacefully to the police station, shoved him up against the wall and wrenched his arm violently up his back to handcuff him.
When the Bishop called his wife, Annette, to bring a video camera and record the violence, she was told she was not allowed to video the arrest.
Mrs Blake, 49, then watched as her husband was pushed to the end of the landing and kicked in the back of the legs in an attempt to topple him down the stairs.
She said: “I heard him shout ‘Annette, Annette, they’re roughing me up!’ and I heard scuffling up there, so I went up, and he was standing still but they were shoving him from side to side. I said ‘What are you doing? Stop it, I’m holding a two year old!’ and they both just looked at me. Then I saw one of their legs coming forward to jolt Jonathan forward down the stairs.
“I had tears in my eyes when they marched him out of the house, and then Nathan came out of the front room shaking and sobbing and saying ‘What’s happened? Why have they done that to Dad?’
“It felt like we had a gang come in here dressed as police and kidnap him, because I almost can’t believe that real police would act like that.”
Bishop Blake, 52, who has baptised over a thousand children locally and performed countless weddings, blessings and funerals, was taken to a dirty, bloodstained cell in Bexleyheath police station without toilet paper and was not allowed to wash or make notes on his ill-treatment.
When his daughter telephoned to ask whether he was being properly looked after, she was told her father was being given food and water and was in a clean room with a mattress and bedding.
In fact, Bishop Blake was allowed no food or water for the first eight hours of his detention. Officers refused to allow him to telephone his family for a bottle of clean water until he told them he felt seriously dehydrated after 14 hours.
His cell contained no bedding, and a bright light was kept on all night to prevent him from sleeping. The room triggered a feeling of claustrophobia and the Bishop had been stripped of his belongings, so he had no way of telling the time.
When he was finally interviewed, nearly 20 hours after his arrest, the two Detective Constables who quizzed him for hours concluded there was no evidence of neglect.
The reports of the Officers who arrested him made no mention of their violence towards the Bishop.
After hearing about the many adventurous activities Bishop Blake sets up for his children, including helicopter rides, elaborate assault courses in the garden and staged spy missions, they said his upbringing of the children was “idyllic.”
The Bishop was then released without charge. By this time, Mrs Blake had been waiting outside the police station for an hour and a half for her husband to be released, and had been told twice that he would be notified that she was there to take him home.
In fact, he was not told, and so walked home from the police station thinking no-one was there to meet him.
Bishop Blake’s family has been severely traumatised by his arrest and subsequent detention. His youngest son, Gabriel, two, has become tearful, clingy and is afraid to leave his parent’s side.
Bishop Blake, who is Archbishop of the Open Episcopal Church, said: “I have always been a great supporter of the police, argued for them against others, been sceptical at stories of corruption and brought the children up to regard them with respect. But this nightmarish experience has shattered my trust in the police and their system of detention.”
He is preparing a formal complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, the Mayor of London and local M.P David Evenett.
Bishop Blake will be campaigning at a higher level for changes to policy regarding arrest and detention without charge.
This comes at a time when the government is introducing a volley of measures set to erode our civil liberties still further.
Following on from the introduction of 42-day detention without trial, and the keeping of DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of innocent people, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has just announced plans to track the phonecalls, emails and internet use of every member of the public.
These communications details will be recorded on a superdatabase which will be available to the police.
Bishop Blake said: “Our rights and liberties are what mark us out as a civilised nation. They must be protected, at all costs. If we don’t do something now, we will find ourselves increasingly at the mercy of a brutal, unchecked police force acting as the strong arm of an all-seeing state.”
1. The Open Episcopal Church is a member of The International Council of Community churches, Churches Uniting in Christ and the World Council of Churches. 2. It has Bishops and clergy in Scotland, Wales and England and over 16,000 members. Bishop Blake was elected unanimously as Archbishop in 2006. 3. Bishop Blake sued Associated Newspapers International for referring to him as a ‘self styled bishop’. He had been properly consecrated a bishop in a public ceremony in 2000 by a Liberal Catholic Bishop. The Newspaper group lost over a hundred thousand pounds in costs.