Friday, 4 May 2012

Church Times: Dr Sizer is Cleared

Ed Thornton writes in today's Church Times (4 May 2012)

THE Crown Prosecution Service has decided that a cleric who was accused of posting anti-Semitic con­tent online did not commit any criminal offence. The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, was investigated by Surrey Police after a complaint was made about an article he posted on his Facebook page (News, 16 March). 
A statement issued by Surrey Police on Tuesday of last week said: “Surrey detectives carried out a thorough and extensive review of the material in question and following liaison with the Crown Prosecution Service it has been determined that no criminal offences have been committed. The matter has now been closed and no further action is being taken.” 
Dr Sizer said last week that Surrey Police’s conclusion “will come as no surprise to those who know and work with me.” 
He said: “My support for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, based on interna­tional law and recognised borders, achieved by peaceful and democratic means, has unfortunately left me open to what can only be described as an unbalanced and targeted cam­paign from certain quarters, a situa­tion which is deeply regrettable. . . 
“Having consulted a number of Jewish friends, I now keep a small list of websites to avoid in future. I will be more careful about the origin of material I post on my blog and Facebook, and welcome opportuni­ties for discussion with members of the Jewish community to move for­wards in a spirit of mutual respect.” 
The Council of Christians and Jews, which alerted the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, to the website, said in a state­ment that it had believed that it was for Guildford diocese and Surrey Police “to decide whether or not appropriate action should be taken. The Council of Christians and Jews has now received the advice of the Surrey Police, together with that of the appropriate legal authorities.” 
A spokeswoman for the diocese of Guildford said: “Dr Sizer has always made clear that he denies racism and anti-Semitism and regrets any hurt that may have been caused by his drawing attention inadvertently to a website that contains offensive material. 
“Dr Sizer hopes that this may now draw a line under the matter.”