How the Methodist Church went to law to

cover up its harassment of Rev Peter Timms - and came off worst.


Peter Hill, the webmaster of this site, examines the Methodist Church’s latest attack on his site and considers the implications of the outcome.



The campaign on this website took a heavy blow over the summer. The Methodist Church had become tired of seeing the truth about its complaints system being spread all over the worldwide web, so it hired top class solicitors to bring the police into the matter. It attempted to put a stop to the bad publicity it had created for itself by its infamous treatment of the Rev Peter Timms over the past seven years.


In late June I was interviewed under caution, as the responsible journalist, by the police at Hatfield Police station. It was a lengthy interrogation, lasting  one and a half hours. The charge was harassment. Harassment can lead to imprisonment six months with the further possibility of an unlimited fine.


The central allegation was that this website contained  false and malicious assertions against members of the Methodist Church – and that this constituted harassment.


I denied that there was any malice involved. My counter-argument was that such allegations could not be oppressive if they could easily be rebutted. Why had the Church not done that?


The Church has repeatedly been challenged to rebut the allegations on this site. Church officials have been offered a “right of reply” to the allegations on the site and have ignored all the approaches. Instead of rebutting the allegations, they have claimed that all such offers have constituted harassment.


The police officers said that the Church’s solicitors claimed that I had sent numerous letters to Mr. Chris Kitchin. He was  the leader of the inquiry panel which looked into Rev Timms complaints – and the man who had sent the false confession to Rev Timms and tried to persuade him to sign it. They claimed I had attacked Mr. Kitchin’s integrity. The officers knew Mr. Kitchin. Until recently Mr. Kitchin was a magistrate in Hatfield and a member of the Police Advisory Board. The court where he had held sway was less than a hundred yards from the police interview room.


Why the Church had chosen to complain to this particular police force, when their offices, and those of their solicitors, are in central London is a question to ponder.


According to the police, the Church claimed that the allegation that the document in question  was a false confession was “baseless”.  They also claimed that the article entitled “Whatever happened to John Troughton”   was designed to threaten and intimidate Mr Troughton. The solicitors also wanted my film “The Disciples of John Wesley”  removed from the website.



There were numerous similar allegations – but there was one allegation that particularly interested the police officers.


On  23rd April 2018 I had visited Mr. Kitchin at his home. The police wanted to know why I had done this without any invitation. I told them that it was a “peace move” – one of several attempts to find a peaceful solution to this affair. I had previously written to Mr Kitchin without receiving a reply. The solicitors told the police that Mr. Kitchin found the meeting offensive; he had felt intimidated and humiliated.


I replied that I recalled the visit very well – for I had prepared carefully for it. I did not understand why Mr. Kitchin should have felt intimidated or humiliated by it – he certainly showed no sign of that during our conversation.


The lead-up to this visit was a meeting I had had with Rev Peter Timms. There had been a major development, for the man who had started the whole affair, John Troughton, had admitted his mistake. Rev Timms and I discussed the possibility of peace talks.

One point I made about what had happened in 2016 was of particular interest to us.  I pointed out that there had been a period of some confusion during the complaints inquiry in late 2016 – and it might suggest an opportunity for talks. This was a time when Rev Timms had been taken into hospital with heart problems and had asked me to take on more onerous tasks beyond the simple secretarial work that I had been doing for him. That handover of responsibility might provide the excuse that the Church needed to resolve the dispute.


The handover of responsibility between us might, I said,  have caused some confusion. I had been taking dictation from the phone which Rev Timms was giving from his hospital bed. I was sending out letters in his name and reading letters to him over the phone. I also attended two meetings with Rev Alan Bolton at Methodist Church House in order to try to sort out what I could see had become a mess.


A mentioned above, this discussion between Peter and me  took place after circuit steward John Troughton  had agreed that the email that Rev Timms had sent him in August 2016 was perfectly in order. Because John Troughton had finally understood Peter Timms' point and agreed that the email was perfectly in line with standing orders, no fault was now attached to that email. Yet that email,  and the fault attached to it, was what had begun everything.


It was this email to John Troughton that Mr. Kitchin had used at the start of the complaints inquiry as his justification for sending the false confession to Rev Timms. He alleged that the email was a breach of confidentiality. Given that the originator of this evidence,  John Troughton,  had now retracted his allegation, it seemed a good opportunity to present this to Mr. Kitchin. He could use John Troughton's mistake  as a means of extricating himself from the mess that he had created by sending the false confession. 

After all, Rev Timms had convinced John Troughton of the correctness of the email  by using the very same rationale that had been presented to Mr. Kitchin  in October 2016 by Rev Timms – from his hospital bed.


Perhaps, I suggested to Rev Timms, this was when the inquiry had gone  wrong. Had Mr. Kitchin ever received that particular document with Rev Timms' justification for sending the email?  I was sure he had never given any answer to it, for I had copies of all his replies. So perhaps he had never seen Rev Timms' rationale for sending the email to John Troughton. 


The handover and the illness had caused confusion.  Was there something that either of us had not read? Had there been a reply from Mr. Kitchin that had somehow got lost?

Or was there  something that Rev Timms thought I had sent to Mr. Kitchin -  when in fact I had not? Did the fact that Mr Kitchin had not replied to the letter, which contained the justification for the email in question, mean  that he had never received it? Had the panel thought that Rev Timms had no justification for sending the email?

It was a chink of light in the darkness, but Mr. Kitchin would need to see it as such.

Rev Timms left it to me to decide what to do with this possible cause of misunderstanding. I saw little point in writing to Mr. Kitchin about it – he never replied to letters – so I decided that the only way to explain our position was to explain it to Mr. Kitchin in person. In discussion, we might perhaps agree that there had been some regrettable mistake made at that time. Such an approach  required careful consideration and planning.


The essential element of the  plan was not to blame Mr. Kitchin for what had happened, but to blame instead Rev Timms’ health and the confusing circumstances that he and I had found ourselves because of it during the inquiry in late 2016. It was a “way out” of the conflict for Mr. Kitchin. Most importantly, it was a way out that  would mean that no one, particularly Mr. Kitchin,  would lose face. Pride is often the cause of intractable disputes. The affair would be classified as a regrettable error for which no one was at fault.


This was why, I explained to the police officers in Hatfield, I had turned up on Mr. Kitchin’s doorstep as I did. The visit was essentially a friendly one,  designed to discuss, and hopefully agree on, a way out of the conflict. I was to offer Mr. Kitchin a good excuse for the outrageous behaviour that he had exhibited to Rev Timms during late 2016. The excuse was that he had not received and read Rev Timms’ justification for the email that he had sent to John Troughton and which had prompted the sending of the false confession.


Not only did I prepare this meeting carefully, but I had determined to make a very good record of it, just in case I were to be later criticised for having knocked on his door. I was determined to be ready for just  such an eventuality as I now found myself faced with in the Hatfield Police station. (For a full note on the meeting with Mr. Kitchin, CLICK HERE)


I read to the police officers various extracts from letters I had sent at other times to Mr. Kitchin, in  which I had offered similar “peace talks.” I quoted paragraphs such as:


“Please do not complain that I am harassing you, for that is not my intention. And please never claim that I have not given you many opportunities to deal with this matter in confidence in a fashion which would not reflect badly on your reputation.


I explained that Mr. Kitchin had replied to none of these letters.   The police pointed out that I was clearly aware from the above text that I was harassing Mr. Kitchin by what I had written.  I replied that I had been trying my hardest not to harass him. However, a gross miscarriage of justice had taken place and,  given that he refused to respond to any of the peace overtures sent to him by letter, the only possible way forward was a face to face chat. After all, I added, he had a right of reply and I had a duty to offer one to him.

The excuse about the confusion that Rev Timms' illness had caused was a golden opportunity for Mr. Kitchin. He should be encouraged not to dismiss lightly -  as it seemed he had dismissed my letters to him. A quiet chat was the best way forward.


At the time of my visit to his home, I was still convinced that Mr Kitchin, who was both a magistrate and a member of the local police advisory board, was an honourable man. I felt sure that when he was offered a way out of the mess that his mistake had created, he would readily accept the hand of friendship.


In fact his attitude during the conversation was that the matter was “water under the bridge” and that he no longer had any hand in it. He was passing the responsibility onto the Methodist Church executive.


The police officers asked why I did not deal with the executives in Methodist Church House. I replied that I had done so, but years had passed and those persons now in office did not know the full detail of the case. The way out of the mess that I was offering required someone who recalled the events of late 2016 well. Furthermore, I explained, the key to the matter was that if Mr. Kitchin acknowledged that a mistake had been made, a peaceful solution could be swiftly agreed. So it had to be assessed and agreed with him.


Mr. Kitchin was the key to the problem. He needed to acknowledge the mistake -  at least in private. Only he could do that and it was only fair to approach him about it rather than Methodist Church House.


The police officers seemed impressed by my assertions  that the conversation between Mr Kitchin and myself had been perfectly courteous. They asked if I had had any sense that Mr. Kitchin was in any way affected by our conversation. They clearly had intimidation and humiliation in mind.


I replied that the only time when I had wondered about Mr. Kitchin’s reaction to me was at the very end of the conversation, as we walked to his front door. He had asked me where my car was. I thought this an odd question in the circumstances, though it was harmless enough in itself. We had parted on friendly terms after a conversation of almost half an hour.


Some four weeks after the police interview under caution at Hatfield, and after what must have been extensive inquiries by the police and perhaps the CPS, I was informed that no further action would be taken. I was happy to agree that I would not approach Mr. Kitchin again. But there were no sanctions and no action taken against the website. This decision had important implications for Rev Timms.


It also has serious implications for the Methodist Church. The Church’s solicitors had claimed that the allegation, that the document sent to Rev Timms was a “false confession”,   was “baseless”. It would seem that the police do not agree. If the allegation was indeed “baseless” the repetition of the allegation on this website would certainly constitute harassment. The police would have demanded, at the very least, that I cease using the term.


The charge that the behaviour of myself and Rev Peter Timms was unwarranted and contrary to law is similarly rejected -  for the police decided that what had occurred did not constitute any  crime and was therefore perfectly legal.


The Methodist Church has wasted thousands of pounds of its members’ money in attempting to have me sent to prison or fined – and to shut down this website. All this was done to cover up their own misdeeds.


The legal judgement has been made. It is now time for a judgement within in the Church, not only on the Timms case, but also on whether it is right to threaten people with a prison sentence in order to stop them telling the truth.


The facts of the Timms case are simple and can be assessed by all the members of the Methodist Church. ( For a full chronology of the case, click here)


1. When Rev Timms complained about actions taken by other ministers in his circuit, he was sent a document by the leader of the complaints panel that can only be construed as a  false confession.

It was requested that he sign this document -  admitting he had breached standing orders, when no such breach had occurred or even been mentioned.

This request was actually contained in the first document issued to him by the panel of inquiry;  he knew nothing of the charges of which he was allegedly guilty. 

Such was quite contrary to the standing orders of the Church.

Persuasion, or coercion, followed - that was again contrary to the standing orders.


2. When Rev Timms complained, his objection to the false confession was categorised as 'manipulative', 'harassing' and 'bullying' in the report written by the panel led by Mr. Kitchin - and this counted against Rev Timms in the deliberations of the inquiry panel.


3. Subsequent objections,  made by Rev Timms after the complaints panel found against him, have been categorised as “harassment”  Even simply stating the facts of the case in the public domain has been labelled as “harassment”.


The visit I made to the home of Mr. Kitchin, made because of his persistent refusal to answer any letters about the “false confession”, has been described as  “offensive intimidating and humiliating”. The police clearly believed that it was, as I claimed,   a peace initiative.


Members of the Methodist Church may judge for themselves. whether or not Mr. Kitchin had any just cause for categorising the encounter as such. You may judge for yourself whether or not Mr. Kitchin was offered a way out  in a way in which he would suffer no loss of face. You may judge for yourself whether he turned that offer down.


After the meeting, I made a note of the conversation between Mr. Kitchin and myself. Mentioned above, this note is an authentic account of what was said.


In fact it is the Methodist Church which has conducted a campaign of bullying and intimidation against Rev Timms and Peter Hill.  Their attempt to involve the police, with the clear threat of imprisonment, has blown up in their faces.

Their action calls into question the wisdom and integrity of certain members of the Methodist Church.


After all, someone in the Church told the solicitors that the allegation of the “false confession”   was “baseless”. True, several executives in the Church have said it before, but who said it to the solicitors?   Was it the head of the complaints section, Deacon Donna Ely?  Was it the Secretary to Conference Jonathan Hustler? Was it Rev John Hellyer who is on record of having said something similar in the past?  Or was it Mr. Chris Kitchin, the man who sent the offensive document to Rev Timms?


If the revelations on this website were in any way “baseless”, would not the police have taken action? Does their inaction not indicate that they considered the offensive document to be, in reality,  a false confession? And does this not suggest that to now state otherwise is to promulgate a lie?


Above all, what this sorry affair has demonstrated is that the assault on the facts about the false confession and the cover-up that followed, has failed. It is the  accusations made by  the Methodist Church against Rev Timms and this website that have been proved to be baseless.

This is the first time that any independent third party has made any judgement on facts of the Timms case - and the Methodist Church lost the argument.


The outcome of this blatant attempt to have the police support the Methodist Church’s allegations calls into question the competence and integrity of the officers of the Church who work in Methodist Church House.


A further regrettable consequence of the Church's action is that, because the police have bee involved, various national journalists, civil rights lawyers and the Free Speech Union are now aware of the Methodist Church's attempts to cover up this scandal.


All this calls into question the judgement and competency of Mr. Chris Kitchin – whose role in this is considered elsewhere on this website. Did he actually consider the point I was making during our face to face meeting - or was he so obstinately fixed in his position that he was not even listening?


It further calls into question the role of Rev John Hellyer who was the Chairman of the South East District when the Timms affair began. After all  he stated on an earlier occasion that the allegations on the internet were “false assumptions and statements”.


The Church executive now faces a dilemma. Should they spend further amounts of money on their expensive lawyers in Lincoln's Inn Fields, in order to try yet again to gag this website and cover up their own misdeeds with further spurious charges?  Or should they now turn to those sane and intelligent members of the Methodist hierarchy, particularly those on the Law and Polity Committee,  who think that enough is enough and that the Church should engage with Rev Timms to explore a way to peace in this matter?


- ends












-Peter Hill



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