The Church Times Letter – Marilyn Billingham – August 19 2016


Chichester needs to explain itself, publicly

From Marilyn Billingham
Sir, — The police are to say sorry to the surviving niece of Bishop George Bell because they did not take steps to let her know that the investigation about her uncle’s alleged abuse of a child in the late 1940s was to be made public. This much has been reported accurately in the national press and in the press local to Chichester. The police said far more than this, however.

In a letter to the journalist Peter Hitchens, prompted by his cor­respondence with the Police Crime Commissioner’s Office, the Head of Sussex Police Professional Stand­ards Department stated that the handling of this affair was “com­plicated by the fact that the release was generated by the diocese, with whom (the police acknowledge) they should have been working more closely”.

Further, she continues, “It was never our intention to be pro-active; in other words, there was no intention to release a police state­ment about the alleged criminality of Bishop Bell.” The police, how­­ever, were asked by the diocese to make a statement — a statement which, they now acknowledge, was less than clear, and “could be con­sidered contradictory”.

The people of Chichester diocese and your readers deserve a clear explanation about the basis on which the diocesan office made public this alleged uncorroborated crime that the police were not plan­ning to pursue, and why, despite this, they have continued to bes­mirch the reputation of a man who can no longer defend himself.

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