December 16 2017 – “Welby criticised over handling of historic child abuse case” – Newburgh Gazette


Welby criticised over handling of historic child abuse case Dwayne Harmon 16 December 2017

The church commissioned Carlile a year ago to review its processes in the case. George Bell was accused of abusing a woman over a four year period, starting when she was five-years-old in the 1940s and 50s. I have concluded that the process followed by the Church in this case was deficient in a number of respects. As a result, it over-corrected by rushing to judgement against the long-dead Bishop.

“Lord Carlile does not seek to say whether George Bell was in fact responsible for the acts about which the complaint was made. This is despite the widespread publicity which the case has received”. Lord Carlile, who was asked by the Church to review the case, concluded that it had been wrong to make Bell’s name public at the end of a “very weak” investigation and in a “rush to judgment”. The Church of England has apologised to the relatives of a bishop for the way it investigated child abuse claims made against him decades after his death, the BBC News reported on Friday. But so had Carol, he said.

“In responding to the report, we first want to acknowledge and publicly apologise again for the Church’s lamentable failure, as noted by Lord Carlile, to handle the case properly in 1995”. He said that the allegations against Bell, who died in 1958, were… “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name”. He is also accused of great wickedness. “No human being is entirely good or bad”, Mr. Welby said.

Questioned about Archbishop Welby’s statement, Lord Carlile described it as “less than fully adroit”.

In 2015, the church issued a formal public apology and paid £16,800 to the woman, known as Carol. The review, commissioned past year after a fierce campaign by defenders of Bell (News, 25 November 2016), was published on Friday morning. Church of England figures rejected one part of Lord Carlile’s report, which urged that the names of those accused of abuse should in some circumstances be kept secret unless there are “adverse findings of fact” and “it has also been decided that making the identity public is required in the public interest”. He said: “The good deeds that Bishop George Bell did were recognised internationally”. The Church made a decision to compensate Carol, to apologise and to be open about the case. Lord Carlile’s report makes a series of recommendations about how future safeguarding inquiries should be conducted. “In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed”. The current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, has described it as a “lessons learned” review. “Lord Carlile states that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision” but respectfully, we differ from that judgement. In a press conference after the review was published, Lord Carlile criticised the original 2015 statement for “hanging [Bishop Bell] out to dry”. Lord Carlile writes that Bishop Bell was treated as having been guilty. Lord Carlile said that her allegations, “if true, amount to serious and horrifying criminal offences committed against a defenceless child”. Campaigners have since said the inquiry committed a grave miscarriage of justice after failing to interview key witnesses or examine documents which could have cleared him. It was “premature” for the C of E to come to a conclusion about Bishop Bell “before actively seeking the widest available evidence about what had happened at the time”. This led to “over-steering”: where the Church allowed its preconceptions to drive the outcome. “The Church has always affirmed and treasured Bishop Bell’s principled stand in the Second World War and his contribution to peace remains extraordinary”, Bishop Peter Hancock said. Dr Warner conceded, none the less, that there was no guarantee that this would be the last review of safeguarding failures. Newburgh Gazette

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