Indian appeal court overturns abuse conviction

Church Times [London, England]

March 18, 2022

An appeal court in India has overturned the conviction of the Revd Jonathan Robinson, a priest from the UK, for the abuse of a teenage boy (News, 17 August 2018).

A district judge in Tirunelveli, Jacinta Martin, ruled that the court was “highly satisfied that the charge against the accused is not proved and the accused is acquitted”.

The appeal-court decision brings to an end more than a decade of a legal battle by Mr Robinson, who was accused in September 2011 of abusing a pupil at the school run by the charity he founded in India, the Grail Trust.

His legal counsel submitted to the appeal court that there had been a “gross miscarriage of justice” in the original case. The boy at the centre of the case retracted his statements against Mr Robinson during the original trial, saying that he had made them only after coercion from the Child Welfare Committee and a charity, Justice and Care. The boy’s mother was also a hostile witness when called by the prosecution, as were other students at the school.

The appeal-court judge noted that there was no witness to support the prosecution case, and criticised the prosecution’s investigation, saying that it had not “investigated the case properly to find out whether the charges against the accused are true or it has been falsely created to harass the accused”.

Mr Robinson, who was formerly a priest in the diocese of Bath & Wells, has now retired to the diocese of Salisbury. He said that he was relieved by the judgment, and grateful for his supporters and the persistence of his legal team.

He was critical, though, of the Church of England’s attitude towards him, which he described as “callous and cruel throughout”. He was suspended from ministry after the original conviction.