December 15 2017 – “Traducing George Bell’s name was ‘just wrong’ says Carlile review” – Church Times – Tim Wyatt

Traducing George Bell’s name was ‘just wrong’ says Carlile review

15 DECEMBER 2017

Portrait: George Bell, painted in 1955


CHURCH of England officials “rushed to judgement” when they concluded that a former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell, had sexually abused a young girl in the 1950s, an independent review has concluded.

The committee that investigated the allegations, made by a woman known only as “Carol”, “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”, Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer, found.

“As a result, it concluded all too easily that Carol was telling the truth and Bishop Bell was responsible for serious abuse,” he said.

Although the Church “acted throughout in good faith”, it was overly fearful of once again failing to listen to survivors of abuse. As a result, it over-corrected by rushing to judgement against the long-dead Bishop.

Lord Carlile also notes in his review that, besides unsubstantiated references in a local-newspaper article, “no one other than Carol has come forward to make allegations against Bishop Bell. This is despite the widespread publicity which the case has received.”

Although Lord Carlile’s brief did not included determining whether Bishop Bell was innocent of the charges, he concludes in his review: “For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong.”

Responding to Lord Carlile’s criticism of the Church’s handling of the case, the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, who leads the Church’s safeguarding work, acknowledged that the surviving relatives of Bishop Bell had suffered as a result of the child-abuse accusation. But so had Carol, he said. He apologised to both: “We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”

There was no apology, however, from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said in a statement that the decision to publish Bishop Bell’s name in the context of Carol’s allegations had been “taken with immense reluctance”.

He continued: “We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name. Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness. No human being is entirely good or bad.”

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

THE news about Bishop Bell broke in a C of E press release in October 2015, which announced without warning that the diocese of Chichester had apologised and reached a settlement with Carol after her allegations against Bishop Bell (News, 22 October 2015).

Bell has been regarded as one of the Church’s outstanding clerics of the 20th century, for, among other things, his public stand against the saturation bombing of Germany cities during the Second World War and his active support for the Kindertransport movement.

The review, commissioned last year after a fierce campaign by defenders of Bell (News, 25 November 2016), was published on Friday morning. Its terms of reference did not include determining Bishop Bell’s guilt or innocence: its purpose was to examine the procedures used by the C of E’s safeguarding team to reach their conclusion.

While the Church’s fears of repeating past mistakes and ignoring the victims of clerical abuse were valid, Bell’s right to a fair process was not “extinguished on death”, Lord Carlile concluded.

The C of E should never have publicised Carol’s allegations, and thereby “wrongly and unnecessarily damaged” Bishop Bell’s reputation.

The advice given to the Church was that, if Carol’s case had come to court, it would have been proved on the balance of probabilities. But Lord Carlile writes that, if the “core group” brought together to devise the Church’s response to the allegations had seen the evidence that his review had managed to uncover without great difficulty, the case would not have been thought strong enough even to be tested in court.

Lord Carlile’s report makes a series of recommendations about how future safeguarding inquiries should be conducted. The most significant is that alleged abusers, whether alive or dead, must not be named publicly unless an investigating core group finds a “proper basis of evidence” for the claims.

When a case results in a financial settlement without an admission of liability, as in the Bishop Bell case, there should be a confidentiality clause in the settlement to stop the accused’s name ever being published.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday after the publication of the report, Bishiop Hancock said that, while the national safeguarding team had accepted that its processes were “deficient”, it none the less rejected this recommendation, because of its commitment to transparency.


Review of George Bell child abuse case will be rigorous, Lord Carlile insists

LORD CARLILE, who is to review the Church of England’s handling of the George Bell child-abuse allegations, insists that his inquiry will deliver a robust and independent verdict

“We would look at each case on its merits, but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses,” he said. “The Church has always affirmed and treasured Bishop Bell’s principled stand in the Second World War, and his contribution to peace remains extraordinary.

“At the same time, we have a duty and commitment to listen to those reporting abuse and to protect their interests.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said that Bishop Bell’s good deeds would “stand the test of time”. “In every other respect, we have all been diminished by the case that Lord Carlile has reviewed.”

In a press conference after the review was published, Lord Carlile criticised the original 2015 statement for “hanging [Bishop Bell] out to dry”. Although this was not their intention, the statement left a clear impression that the C of E had found Bishop Bell guilty, he said.

Despite being pressed by reporters, Lord Carlile, a former Liberal Democrat MP and experienced barrister, declined to say whether he believed Bishop Bell to have been innocent. He did admit, however, that, had he been asked to prosecute Bell over Carol’s allegations, he would have lost the case.

The core group’s inquiries were “very weak”, he said, and failed even to speak to witnesses or find material that his own review had come across quickly and easily. 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”.

The Church’s safeguarding team had believed Carol’s accusations to be true, and, therefore, “obvious lines of investigation were not followed,” Lord Carlile said. This led to “over-steering”: where the Church allowed its preconceptions to drive the outcome.

Bishop Hancock said that Lord Carlile rightly condemned the Church for this “over-steering”. But he insisted that changes had been made, with new guidelines and funding for the national safeguarding team, which was now better equipped to tackle similar cases.

Dr Warner conceded, none the less, that there was no guarantee that this would be the last review of safeguarding failures. There was more work to be done, but “the climate and character of the [safeguarding] work has changed for the better.”

The full review can be read here.

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December 15 2017 – “Archbishop criticised for refusing to clear bishop besmirched by the Church” – Daily Telegraph – Olivia Rudgard and Robert Mendick

Archbishop criticised for refusing to clear bishop besmirched by the Church

Bishop George Bell should not have been named by the Church, a report has found CREDIT: JOHN DOMINIS /THE LIFE PICTURE COLLECTION 

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticised for refusing to clear the bishop besmirched by the Church of England and saying instead that a “significant cloud” hangs over him.

A damning report published today by Lord Carlile of Berriew found that the reputation of Bishop George Bell, who was posthumously accused of sexually abusing a child, was “wrongfully and unnecessarily damaged” by the Church, who publicly named him in an apology made in 2015.

But in a statement following the report, Justin Welby said Bell was “accused of great wickedness” and apologises only “for the failures of the process”. 

“We have to differ from Lord Carlile’s point that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision’.

“The C of E is committed to transparency and therefore we would take a different approach,” he adds.

Lord Carlile said the Archbishop’s comments were “very disappointing”. 

“The implication of what he said is everybody accused should have their name made public, and that is just not acceptable,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

Lord Carlile earlier said that he judged the prospect of a successful criminal prosecution, had the bishop been alive, as “low”.

Bell’s supporters also criticised the Archbishop’s response. 

Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s friend Franz Hildebrandt, said Bishop Bell’s family deserved a personal apology from the Archbishop and the Bishop of Chichester. 

“The Church can’t have its cake and eat it. Either he is innocent, in which case they must apologise, or he is guilty, which they can’t prove, and the report makes clear that they have not proved,” she told this newspaper. 

Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer, said the Archbishop’s statement was “wrong” and “illogical”. 

“It fails a basic test of rational justice,”he said. “It lacks an understanding of all kinds of dimensions which require compassion, not least in Chichester, where people feel deeply upset by this.”

The review found that the Church was wrong to publicly name Bell, who was accused by a woman known as Carol of sexually abusing her when she was a young child.

It also failed to thoroughly investigate the allegations, failed to find and inform Bell’s surviving family members of the investigation, and did not properly consider the impact on the bishop’s reputation when deciding what to do, Lord Carlile said.

The alleged abuse took place more than 60 years ago but the allegations were first made to the Church in 1995.

It paid compensation of £16,800 and £15,000 legal costs to “Carol” in 2015.

Lord Carlile of Berriew
Lord Carlile of Berriew: ‘The implication of what he said is everybody accused should have their name made public, and that is just not acceptable’. CREDIT: PACO ANSELMI /PA

Before the allegations were made public Bishop Bell was a highly respected theologian who was widely regarded as a hero for his work helping victims of Nazi persecution.

The report includes the findings of psychiatrist Professor Anthony Maden, which were given to Church officials in 2015, several months before the public apology was made.

He found that there were “enormous problems” because of the time elapsed, and said the “possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded”.

The alleged victim had been abused by her first husband, and Maden added that her unhappy early life meant there was “an obvious temptation to seek to (consciously or unconsciously) allocate the blame for that unhappiness to the actions of others in the distant past”.

In a statement Peter Hancock, the Church’s lead safeguarding bishop, said: “We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell. We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of this case.”

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