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100 years ago: Wakeford prosecution

12 February 2021

February 11th, 1921.

THE proceedings at Lincoln against the Archdeacon of Stow [the Ven. John Wakeford, found guilty of committing adultery in a hotel in Peterborough] have come as a great blow to many persons in the diocese and outside, to judge only by the letters we have ourselves received. It may be that the Archdeacon was over-confident of acquittal, but we are bound to say that the finding of the Court appeared to us, upon the evidence given, quite inevitable. If, as is suggested, other important evidence has since become available, it is important that an appeal should be lodged. Any lingering doubt in a matter of this sort must be set at rest. We greatly hope that the appeals for funds which have been circulated may enable the Archdeacon, in the words of the Bishop of Lichfield, to have every chance of vindicating his innocence.

It has been stated in some newspapers that appeal from the decision of a Consistory Court lies to the Provincial Court, that is to the statutory Court of Arches, over which Sir Lewis Dibdin now presides. The fact is that a peculiar system of appeal was settled by the Clergy Discipline Act of 1892. In English ecclesiastical law, so far as appeals were allowed, the appeal from the bishop’s Consistory Court went first to the Provincial Court, which in the province of Canterbury is the Court of Arches, and from the Provincial Court to the Delegates, who were substituted for the papacy at the Reformation, and were subsequently replaced — under an Act of Parliament to which the Church never gave her consent — by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Clergy Discipline Act of 1892 allows an appeal on questions of law or on questions of fact, if permission be given, either to the Provincial Court or to the Privy Council, but not to both. The Act was passed to deal with a pressing evil, and its Erastian character was much disliked by many Churchmen. It was attacked for different reasons by some liberationist members of the House of Commons, among whom was Mr Lloyd George, who found himself on that occasion using the Catholic arguments of the English Church Union.

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