The ‘problem’ in the George Bell ‘case’ is, at one and the same time, listening to and providing care for the complainant (‘Carol’, as she is is now referred to following the interviews she gave to The Argus newspaper in February 2016), and providing justice for George Bell. At issue is how the interests of a deceased alleged abuser (in Bell’s case, someone who has been dead for 58 years) are properly protected in the investigative process: a concern highlighted by Baroness Butler-Sloss in her contribution to the debate in the House of Lords on 30 June 2016, as to which, in relation to George Bell, there remains substantial doubt because of the Church’s unwillingness to be transparent. Yes, there must be care for Carol, but not at the cost of ensuring justice for Bishop Bell.
It is not an “either/or” question, as Anthony Archer seems to regard it (the Church “need[ing] to focus on the abused rather than defend[ing] its own reputation at all costs and that of the alleged abusers who receive or received a stipend from it.”) We must both “act justly and love mercy” and “speak the truth in love” (Micah ch 6 v 8; Ephesians ch 4 v 15.)
What is now reasonably clear is that the Core Group, who examined Carol’s complaint and agreed to the settlement announced on 22 October 2015, did not examine ALL the available evidence. Accordingly, the legal advice on which the settlement was based (that “had the claim been tested by a court, on the balance of probabilities, Carol would have won her claim” – Bishop Cottrell in the HL on 30 June) is now shown to have been flawed.
This is why the supplementary question I asked at the General Synod in York emphasised the need for the Terms of Reference of the Independent Review (announced on 28 June 2016) to enable the Reviewer (whose name has yet to be announced but who, I suggest, should be a senior lawyer, preferably a judge) not only to review the process that led to the settlement with Carol, but also to re-examine ALL the evidence, including the evidence that was not looked at or considered by the Core Group but which has come to light subsequently.
Posted by: David Lamming on Thursday, 21 July 2016 at 3:51pm BST