Police Say Sorry Over Bishop Bell. BBC Say Sorry Over Bishop Bell. And The Church?

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    Photo by Richard W. Symonds – Chichester Cathedral – August 2016


Sussex Police has said sorry to the living relatives of Bishop George bell.

Superintendent Jez Graves has written to journalist Peter Hitchens, who is acting on behalf of a surviving relative.

The Chichester Diocese last year settled a civil claim to a woman who said she was abused as a young girl.

Police said to the Observer: “Yes, the letter apologises because the force did not take steps to try to contact any living relatives of Bishop Bell, to let them know that the statement about our investigation was to be made public by the Church of England last October.

“However the letter does not apologise for the police investigation or for the statement itself. It apologises solely for our not trying to ensure in advance that any surviving relatives knew of our statement, which was included in the Church statement.”

Bishop Bell served as Bishop of Chichester until his death in 1958.



Photo by Richard W. Symonds -Chichester Cathedral – August 2016



I am at last able to reveal that the BBC has, very much to its credit, and in contrast to many other media, regional and national, admitted that some of its reporting on the allegations against Bishop George Bell was wrong.

It has justly and properly accepted an argument I and others have made to several media, local and national.These media said that the late Bishop ’was’ a child abuser, without the qualifications normally used in reporting an unproven allegation. They were not entitled to do so, as no on-the-record statement or document justified this conclusion.  ‘The Guardian’  has, as I have noted here earlier, specifically rejected this argument as has its ‘Review Panel’, a Scott Trust body which stoutly maintains its independence from the newspaper. Though the Panel has conceded , bizarrely, that it might have been better to use inverted commas around the claims that the Bishop ‘was’ an abuser. Indeed it might.

The summary of the conclusions of the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) has just gone up on the BBC website, and can be seen athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/comp-reports/ecu/southeasttoday051115.  There’s also a report on the Corrections & Clarifications page athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/helpandfeedback/corrections_clarifications.

The ECU concluded that the Church’s original October 22nd statement (in my view the unjustified basis of much misleading reporting on the matter, as it made no assertion of guilt) ‘did not warrant reporting as a matter of fact that the allegations had been proven’


The key quotation in full is below:

‘The original statement by the church authorities had not explicitly said they believed Bishop Bell to have been guilty, but a subsequent statement said they had accepted the veracity of the allegations on the balance of probabilities.  This, however, did not warrant reporting as a matter of fact that the allegations had been proven.’

I would add that in a letter to me on 28th January (which I have refrained from publishing until now because I was asked to keep it private till the final conclusion was published), Fraser Steel, the BBC’s Head of Editorial Complaints, said:

‘…Although the statement doesn’t say so in terms, it certainly implies that the church authorities have accepted that the allegations are true. That, however, is not the same as saying that Bishop Bell has been proven guilty of sexual abuse and, to the best of my knowledge, no information has been disclosed about the matter which might warrant the view that the allegations had in effect been proven, even though not through court proceedings.

‘I therefore agree that both the broadcast and the online piece were inaccurate in that respect.’ (my emphasis, PH)



Photo by Richard W. Symonds – Chichester Cathedral – July 2016



2 thoughts on “Police Say Sorry Over Bishop Bell. BBC Say Sorry Over Bishop Bell. And The Church?

  1. Pingback: “The Church of England masters the non-apology” – Rev’d Dr Jules Gomes – The Bell Society

  2. Pingback: The Chronology – October 2015 to October 2017 – Justice for Bishop George Bell of Chichester – The Bell Society

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