“Church of England Orders Review Into Handling Of George Bell Sex Abuse Case” – The Guardian

Church of England orders review into handling of George Bell sex abuse case

Independent review is announced nine months after church compensated and apologised to bishop’s victim



Church of England orders review into handling of George Bell sex abuse case
Independent review is announced nine months after church compensated and apologised to bishop’s victim
Bishop George Bell smiling in a black hat – Photograph: PA Archive
George Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, died in 1958. The Church of England settled a civil claim against him by a woman who said she was abused as a small child.
Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Tuesday 28 June 2016 12.21 BST Last modified on Tuesday 28 June 2016 12.50 BST
The Church of England has launched an independent review into its processes regarding the settlement of a claim of sexual abuse by one of its leading figures of the 20th century, George Bell.

C of E sources said the review was routine and it was not revisiting its decision to apologise and pay compensation to a woman who claimed she was abused as a small child by the bishop of Chichester in the 1940s and 50s.

The name of the independent reviewer and the review’s terms of reference will be announced at a later date.

The move is likely to be seized on by Bell’s supporters to bolster their argument that the church acted without sufficient evidence when it effectively branded the former bishop as a child abuser. The C of E issued a formal apology when settling a civil claim last September against Bell, 20 years after the abuse allegations were first made.

The serving bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, wrote at the time to the survivor, known as Carol, expressing “deep sorrow” and apologising for a “devastating betrayal of trust”. The response from the diocese of Chichester when the survivor first made claims in 1995 “fell a long way short, not just of what is expected now, but of what we appreciate you should have had a right to expect then”, his letter added.
Church challenged over apology for George Bell abuse claims
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Bell, who sat in the House of Lords, was once tipped as a possible archbishop of Canterbury, although his outspoken opposition to the bombing of German civilians by the RAF during the second world war was thought to have counted against him. He died in 1958.

A group of academics, lawyers, politicians and church figures subsequently challenged the church over its apology, saying Bell’s “condemnation as a paedophile” had irreparably damaged his reputation. The Church had failed to investigate properly, they said.

The settlement was based on the balance of probabilities as criminal proceedings could not be brought in a case where the alleged perpetrator was dead, the church said on Tuesday.

Its independent review was in accordance with House of Bishops guidance on all complex cases and was aimed at considering what lessons could be learned in future safeguarding situations, it added. “The church has always recognised Bishop Bell’s principled stand in the second world war and his contribution to peace but it also has a duty to listen to survivors,” said a statement. “The diocese of Chichester continues to be in touch and offer support to the survivor known as Carol, who brought the allegations in this case.”

Warner said he had “made it absolutely clear that the survivor in the case be reassured that we will do everything we can to continue to support her as we have done throughout this process. Like her, we recognise gravity of this matter, given its impact on the national and international reputation of Bishop George Bell.”
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