Category Archives: Child Sex Abuse

“Christ Church dean accused of mishandling child sexual assault case” – Cherwell – March 5 2020

“Christ Church Governing Body criticised for its attacks on the Dean” – Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Governing Body criticised for its attacks on the Dean

https://cherwell.org/2020/03/05/christ-church-dean-accused-of-mishandling-child-sexual-assault-case/

chch-cathedral

Christ Church Oxford

Christ Church dean accused of mishandling child sexual assault case

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, has been accused of failing to correctly report the sexual assault of a minor.

Percy, embroiled in a long dispute with his own college, has denied the allegations in a statement to The Guardian.

On the 4th March, a statement on Christ Church’s website was posted, entitled “Update on Safeguarding”. It read: “On 7 February 2020, we received a media enquiry regarding the two Employment Tribunal claims, which the Dean has lodged against Christ Church.”

“This included an allegation that a former student had been sexually assaulted during their time at Christ Church, whilst still a minor. Upon further investigation, it is apparent that this allegation was disclosed to the Dean, but never reported by him to the police, the local authority designated officer, Christ Church’s safeguarding officers, or the Church of England’s safeguarding officer.

“This allegation has now been reported to the police. Internal investigations have subsequently raised serious concerns about the Dean’s handling of four separate matters reported to him. All relate to allegations of sexual abuse or assault, two involving a minor. On legal advice, we have also made a report to the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Office, and they have opened an investigation.

“There is no implication whatsoever that the Dean himself has been involved in any form of sexual misconduct.

“Protecting our students, pupils, staff, and all those who live, work, or study at Christ Church is our highest priority. We are assisting the Church of England and the police in their enquiries, and we are putting in place measures to ensure that our safeguarding obligations continue to be met.

“Christ Church’s Governing Body is fully committed to safeguarding and has robust policies and processes in place. Our thoughts are with any survivors of abuse affected by this news. If anyone requires immediate support, they should contact Christ Church or the police.”

Speaking to Cherwell, the Dean issued the following statement: “The statement on the College website will give rise to unfortunate speculation. For the avoidance of doubt, the Dean dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the Academic year ​​20​16-​17, and the information on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time. One of these individuals had already made a report to the police, which was already known ​to​the college officers concerned. A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the ​alleged assault ​on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position of this individual has not changed. No person making a disclosure was still a minor – all were over 21.

“Three of the cases took place before 2014, prior to the Dean taking up office. None of alleged perpetrators posed a safeguarding risk. None of the alleged perpetrators was a current employee of Christ Church at the time of these disclosures.

“The Dean raised concerns that college officers in 2017, and who should have had responsibility for safeguarding​,​ did not ​in fact ​know this, and had not been properly trained. ​ ​The Dean raised this as a matter of concern with the three individuals with the most responsibility for the legal compliance of the college. (i.e. statutory, welfare, etc.).  The job descriptions for the relevant college officers were changed in January 2018 to take account of the concerns raised by the instigation of the Dean. The college and cathedral regularly review their safeguarding practice, and are compliant with their statutory obligations, and our safeguarding leads are all properly trained.

The Police made a statement on this matter some weeks ago (20-02-20). This is what they said to me in writing: “We received a third party report of a rape on 13 February this year relating to an alleged incident at Christchurch sometime between 2010 and 2017. However, the alleged victim has never reported such an incident to police, and as such there is no line of enquiry and no current investigation. Due to Home Office guidelines, we have recorded the offence as reported, but the matter has been filed.”

In addition, the Dean told The Guardian he had “dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the academic year 2016-17, and the information on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time.

“A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the alleged assault on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position has not changed.”

In a comprehensive response to the Dean’s statement, Christ Church issued the following rebuttal:

“1. “For the avoidance of doubt, the Dean dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the aca­demic year 2016-17, and the infor­ma­tion on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time.”

The Dean has told Christ Church that four historic cases were reported to him in the calendar year of 2017. Christ Church’s Safeguarding Officers were not informed by the Dean at the time about three of these reports of sexual assault – nor was any other college officer.

“2. “One of these individuals had already made a report to the police, which was already known to the college officers concerned.”

No college officer was informed by the Dean about any police report at the time, with regard to any of these four disclosures.

“3. “A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the alleged assault on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position of this individual has not changed.”

A fourth case was mentioned, regarding a former student, to a Safeguarding Officer, but with no indication that it involved an individual who was a minor at the time of the alleged assault.

“4. “No person making a disclosure was a minor — all were over 21.”

According to what the Dean has told us, two of the survivors were minors at the time of the alleged abuse/assault.

“5.  “Three of the cases took place before 2014, prior to the Dean taking up office.”

Four cases were disclosed to the Dean, according to his own account, in the calendar year of 2017.

“6. “None of alleged perpetrators posed a safeguarding risk.”

Apart from the Dean, we are not aware of anyone at Christ Church who has any information about any of the alleged perpetrators, and therefore we are unable to assess whether there is any safeguarding risk.

“7. “The Christ Church statement omits to note that the police have reported that no investigation is being pursued.”

Thames Valley Police has asked the Dean for more information with regard to the perpetrator of the recently-reported alleged assault against a minor. Christ Church is not aware that the Dean has responded to this request.

This is the latest instalment in the continuing clash between Martyn Percy and his colleagues. The origins of the dispute are contentious, with the Dean claiming a hostile response to this efforts to modernise the college. His opponents in the ongoing battle cite a request for a pay rise.

After a suspension in 2018, Martyn Percy was reinstated following an internal tribunal, in August of last year. His case will be heard in an Employment Tribunal in 2021.

  • IICSA Transcript – Day 1 – Monday – July 23 2018 – Fiona Scolding QC

     

    Page 90

    MR GIFFIN: Chair, members of the panel, the Archbishops’ Council is grateful for this opportunity to make some brief opening remarks….In 2015, after Ball, as you have heard, pleaded guilty to offences and was sentenced for them, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote to individuals known to have been abused by Ball to offer his apologies and the church made a public statement, including these words, which bear repeating. Shall I pause?

    FIONA SCOLDING QC: I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what is
    going on. I will ask Mr Fulbrook to go and see if
    whatever is happening can be desisted from immediately.
    MR GIFFIN: Shall I continue, chair? I will, if I may,
    repeat my previous words….

    Page 171 & 172

    REVD GRAHAM SAWYER: Let me make this very clear. The sexual abuse that was
    perpetrated upon me by Bishop Peter Ball pales into
    insignificance when compared to the enduringly cruel and
    sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by
    officials, both lay and ordained, in the
    Church of England, and I know from the testimony of
    other people who have got in touch with me over the last
    five or ten years that what I have experienced is not
    dissimilar to the experience of so many others, and
    I use those words “cruel and sadistic”, because I think
    that’s how they behave.

    FIONA SCOLDING QC: How much of that do you attribute to the lingering
    effect, shall we say, of Peter Ball, because the events
    you describe sort of postdated Peter Ball’s caution and
    resignation?

    REVD GRAHAM SAWYER: Well, there’s an expression used in Australia to refer
    to the bench of bishops, they don’t refer to the bench
    of bishops, but they refer to the “purple circle”,
    and the purple circle exists pretty much in every national
    church within Anglicanism. It no doubt exists in other
    episcopally-led churches. They support one another in
    a sort of club-like way.
    If anyone attacks one of them, they will, as
    a group, as a sort of collective conscience and in
    action, seek to destroy the person who is making
    complaints about one individual.
    Now, don’t take my testimony alone from this. There
    is former — in fact, the recently retired bishop of
    Newcastle in NSW, Australia, who was a victim of sexual
    abuse there, and he described his treatment — he said
    it is like an ecclesiastical protection racket. That is
    the culture within Anglicanism and no doubt within other
    episcopally-led church. It is an ecclesiastical
    protection racket, and anyone who seeks in any way to
    threaten the reputation of the church as an institution
    has to be destroyed. That is the primary thing, and
    that is the culture within Anglicanism.

     

  • March 12 2020 – From The Archives [July 24 2019 – Luther Pendragon – “‘Professional Bullies’ and the Church of England” – ‘The Bell Society’ – Richard W. Symonds]

    Luther-Pendragon

    EIO-new

    March 13 2020 – From The Archives [July 23 2108 – Transcript – Day 1 – Monday – July 23 2018]

    • Excerpts – Fiona Scolding QC
    • This case study will seek answers to the following
      questions:
      (1) why did Bishop Peter Ball escape detection as an
      abuser, despite, as it has now emerged, the fact that he
      made sexual advances to a significant number of young
      men who came within his ambit of influence?
      (2) how did the church permit him to run a scheme
      25 where young people came to stay with him for extended
      periods of time in his home without any supervision or
      oversight and without any real sense of what was
      happening or who was there over a more than ten-year
      period whilst he was a suffragan bishop?
      (3) why was he given a caution, rather than
      prosecuted, for the offending that the police
      investigated in 1992/1993 in respect of Neil Todd and
      others? Why were other complaints brought at that time
      not prosecuted or subject to any form of disposal at
      that time?
      (4) why was Peter Ball represented by a lawyer
      during the criminal proceedings in 1992 who was also the
      diocesan registrar, that is, an official lawyer for the
      diocese in religious matters? This individual discussed
      the case and Peter Ball’s defence with various senior
      members of the church during the course of
      the investigation. Why was this potential conflict of
      interest not identified or acted upon?
      (5) was it wrong for the church to become involved
      in seeking to defend Peter Ball by employing a private
      detective on his behalf?
      (6) were the church, police or prosecution put under
      undue and improper pressure by individuals who held
      positions of power and influence within society to try
      and quash the criminal allegations made against
      Peter Ball and return him to ministry?
      (7) should a caution ever have been administered?
      (8) why was he not subject to any disciplinary
      action by the church until 2015? Were the disciplinary
      powers of the church at the time in question, 1992
      through to 2015, fit for purpose to manage the sorts of
      allegations that this case study raises? Why, given the
      frustrations expressed by senior individuals within
      Lambeth Palace about Peter Ball’s lack of insight into
      his own offending behaviour was no risk assessment
      process undertaken of him until 2009?
      (9) why was he allowed to return to public ministry
      and even granted permission to visit schools and
      undertake confirmations in the light of what was known
      about his offending behaviour within the church at the
      time?
      (10) why didn’t the church refer letters received
      from various individuals which made allegations similar
      to those that Neil Todd had made to the police
      in December 1992 and why in fact did it take until 2010
      for the majority of those letters to be passed to the
      police?
      (11) was the internal investigation conducted by the
      Church of England in 1992/1993 adequate?
      (12) why did the prosecution decide to accept the
      guilty pleas entered into by Peter Ball in 2015 and why
      were other offences not pursued to trial?
      (13) would the church approach a similar matter
      concerning a senior member of its ranks in a like manner
      today and, if not, what steps have been nut in place to
      create a consistent approach to dealing with such
      allegations?
      (14) what steps does the church, police, Crown
      Prosecution Service and society need to undertake to
      overcome the problems that this case study may
      demonstrate?
      We have sought and obtained evidence from Peter Ball
      himself. He has provided two witness statements to the
      inquiry. We have received medical evidence that he is
      too unwell to give us evidence either in person or by
      way of videolink. Both his witness statements will be
      placed upon the website. He has provided an apology in
      the second of those witness statements and has
      identified that he has neither been open nor shown
      penitence in the past. He also identifies that
      previously he has not had the courage to be forthright
      about his sexuality that maybe he should have had…….

    Page 90

    MR GIFFIN: Chair, members of the panel, the
    Archbishops’ Council is grateful for this opportunity to
    make some brief opening remarks. The inquiry of course
    heard longer submissions from us at the start and finish
    of the Chichester case study, and we also filed detailed
    written submissions at the close of the Chichester
    hearings, and all of those are publicly available and
    I needn’t repeat any of the detail of them now.
    Rather, I shall confine myself to three matters.
    The first and foremost is to say, clearly, that the
    church is sorry and ashamed. At the Chichester
    hearings, the Archbishops’ Council offered an
    unqualified apology to those vulnerable people, children
    and others, whose lives have been damaged by abuse, and
    who were not cared for and protected by the church as
    they should have been. We repeat that apology now,
    specifically to those who suffered abuse at the hands of
    Peter Ball, and the families and others who have been
    affected by that abuse.
    In 2015, after Ball, as you have heard, pleadedguilty to offences and was sentenced for them, the
    Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote to
    individuals known to have been abused by Ball to offer
    his apologies and the church made a public statement,
    including these words, which bear repeating. Shall
    I pause?
    MS SCOLDING: I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what is
    going on. I will ask Mr Fulbrook to go and see if
    whatever is happening can be desisted from immediately.
    MR GIFFIN: Shall I continue, chair? I will, if I may,
    repeat my previous words….

    Page 99

    Mr Bourne

    Now, this does not excuse the error of not passing
    on the letters, but the inquiry will see that the police
    back then had abundant evidence of a wider picture of
    Peter Ball’s abusive activity and the inquiry can be
    reassured that the addition of one further allegation
    would not have altered that picture in any significant
    25 way.
    My second comment on Dame Moira’s report is that, on
    three key points, it will benefit from some
    clarification. Unfortunately, those key points have
    attracted as much attention as anything else in the
    report. They are the references to collusion, cover-up
    and deliberate concealment.
    In fairness to Dame Moira, her report is actually
    expressed in very measured terms; so measured, in fact,
    that any conclusions drawn about collusion, cover-up or
    deliberate concealment are not easy to pin down. The
    problem, however, is that the report’s use of those
    words has already had serious consequences, and that’s
    not surprising because there is a crucial difference
    between mistakes, however blameworthy, and
    conspiratorial acts carried out for a guilty purpose.
    We have no doubt that this inquiry will wish to
    distinguish carefully between those two things.
    There are, therefore, questions for Dame Moira Gibb
    about those specific areas. All I will add now in
    opening is that Lord Carey’s hope is that this week’s
    hearing will make some important matters clearer for
    everyone. The clearest possible understanding is, of
    course, for the benefit of all of the public and
    especially for victims and survivors.
    Chair, thank you…….

    Reverend Graham Sawyer

    Page 171/172

    A. Let me make this very clear. The sexual abuse that was
    perpetrated upon me by Bishop Peter Ball pales into
    insignificance when compared to the enduringly cruel and
    sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by
    officials, both lay and ordained, in the
    Church of England, and I know from the testimony of
    other people who have got in touch with me over the last
    five or ten years that what I have experienced is not
    dissimilar to the experience of so many others, and
    I use those words “cruel and sadistic”, because I think
    that’s how they behave.

    Q. How much of that do you attribute to the lingering
    effect, shall we say, of Peter Ball, because the events
    you describe sort of postdated Peter Ball’s caution and
    resignation?

    A. Well, there’s an expression used in Australia to refer
    to the bench of bishops, they don’t refer to the bench
    of bishops, but they refer to the “purple circle”, and the purple circle exists pretty much in every national
    church within Anglicanism. It no doubt exists in other
    episcopally-led churches. They support one another in
    a sort of club-like way.
    If anyone attacks one of them, they will, as
    a group, as a sort of collective conscience and in
    action, seek to destroy the person who is making
    complaints about one individual.
    Now, don’t take my testimony alone from this. There
    is former — in fact, the recently retired bishop of
    Newcastle in NSW, Australia, who was a victim of sexual
    abuse there, and he described his treatment — he said
    it is like an ecclesiastical protection racket. That is
    the culture within Anglicanism and no doubt within other
    episcopally-led church. It is an ecclesiastical
    protection racket, and anyone who seeks in any way to
    threaten the reputation of the church as an institution
    has to be destroyed. That is the primary thing, and
    that is the culture within Anglicanism.

 

Sept 5 2019 – “Sir Cliff Richard accepts £2m from BBC towards legal costs” – AOL/PA

https://www.aol.co.uk/news/2019/09/04/sir-cliff-richard-accepts-a-2m-from-bbc-towards-legal-costs/

Sir Cliff Richard accepts £2m from BBC towards legal costs

 

Sir Cliff Richard has agreed a final settlement with the BBC and will receive around £2 million towards his legal costs.

The singer, 78, sued the broadcaster over its coverage of the police search of his Berkshire home in 2014.

The judge ruled in the singer’s favour last year, awarding him £210,000 in damages.

Sir Cliff Richard with Gloria Hunniford, during his case against the BBC
Sir Cliff Richard with Gloria Hunniford, during his case against the BBC (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

 

Sir Cliff told the trial he had spent more than £3 million on the case.

Following the final settlement, a spokesman for the singer said he was still “substantially out of pocket”.

A statement said: “Sir Cliff incurred these costs over a five-year period as a direct result of the actions of the BBC and South Yorkshire Police.

“He is of course glad that an agreement about costs has now been reached.

“Ultimately, however, Sir Cliff is substantially out of pocket (a seven figure sum), not least because there are costs that he has not sought to recover from the parties.”

Sir Cliff Richard
Sir Cliff Richard (Kirsty O’Connor)

The BBC also paid £315,000 to South Yorkshire Police for legal costs.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “We are pleased that Sir Cliff Richard, the BBC and South Yorkshire Police have reached an amicable settlement of Sir Cliff Richard’s legal costs.

“The BBC’s costs are within the scope of our legal insurance. This brings the legal process to its conclusion.”

The pop star has previously told how the trauma of BBC coverage of the police search of his home, following a claim of historical sexual assault, left him emotionally drained.

Sir Cliff was not arrested and did not face charges.

He later said: “They smeared my name around the world.”

He added: “I’ve had four terrible years and it was horrific… I would never wish that on my worst enemy. It was tumultuous, horrific, emotionally draining, traumatic.”

Earlier this year, Sir Cliff launched a petition so that those accused of sexual offences remain anonymous until charged.

July 16 2019 – “Judge slates London diocese over Timothy Storey rape case” – Church Times

16 JULY 2019

 

JOHN SALMON/COMMONS

St Michael’s, Chester Square

 

THE diocese of London has been accused of “shamefully” trying to shift the blame for safeguarding failures concerning an ordinand who raped two teenagers he got to know as a church youth worker.

The criticism came from Judge Katz QC while sentencing Timothy Storey, 35, a former ordinand who was convicted in February on three charges of rape and one of sexual assault (News, 26 February).

His two victims were under 18 when they were groomed online and then raped. The rapist met his victims while working as a children’s pastor at a church in central London.

Sentencing Mr Storey to 15 years in prison, Judge Katz said that his “insidious” behaviour warranted a further four years on licence after his custodial sentence was completed. But he also strongly criticised the diocese of London. “It seems to me that there was a wholesale failure by those responsible at that time for safeguarding,” Judge Katz said. When the diocese eventually decided to talk to Mr Storey about allegations made against him, it asked someone “clearly unsuited” to the task to confront him.

Furthermore, this official’s superior “arrogantly refused” to give a statement to prosecutors for the trial, and seemed to be most concerned about the diocese’s reputation.

But it was the statement released by the diocese at the conclusion of the trial in February which came in for the greatest criticism.

The statement said that the diocese had investigated the allegations of assault in 2009, and then passed on the information to the Metropolitan Police, who decided that no crime had been committed.

But this was a travesty of what had really happened, Judge Katz said. In fact, the police had investigated Mr Storey “diligently and sensitively, something the diocese had been incapable of”.

The diocese’s statement, which “appeared to suggest that the diocese had acted appropriately at all times”, and implied that the police were to blame, “was a shameful misrepresentation of the truth”, the judge concluded.

A spokeswoman for the diocese said that an independent review of the diocese’s handling of the case had been ordered, and Mr Storey’s victims would be contacted in due course. “We fully acknowledge the comments that have been made by the judge, and we are committed to ensuring that lessons are learned and acted upon,” the spokeswoman said.

“While, since 2010, we have made significant improvements to our safeguarding processes and greatly increased the resources available, we are constantly striving to make our Church safe for everyone. Timothy Storey carried out a series of appalling crimes, and we are profoundly sorry for what his victims endured.”

May 21 2019 – Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Bishop George Bell and The Deleted Files – Anglican Unscripted 505 [Time: 20.45 to 28.05]

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Bishop Gavin Ashenden

The implications of hiding crosses in churches. Anglican Unscripted 505.

Anglican Unscripted 505 – Bishop Gavin Ashenden on Bishop George Bell [Time: 20.45 to 28.05]

Ref: “Footprints In The Sand – tracking changes in online content” – A short report for The Bell Society by Peter Crosskey

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/may-20-2019-footprints-in-the-sand-tracking-changes-in-online-content-chichester-cathedral-website-a-short-report-for-the-bell-society-by-peter-crosskey/

IMG_2845

May 13 2019 – The George Bell Group Statement – May 2019 – “The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal” ~ Dr Andrew Chandler

George Bell House - 4 Canon Lane - Chichester Cathedral

George Bell House – 4 Canon Lane – Chichester Cathedral – before the name change [Picture: Alamy]

Home

The George Bell Group

We are an independent group whose members represent a concentration of experience in public life, in the fields of law, policing, politics, journalism, academic research and church affairs. This group began to meet in response to the 22 October 2015 statement issued by the Church of England about Bishop George Bell. See this BBC report for the original story. On 15 December 2017 the Church of England published the independent review of Lord Carlile and issued three statements made in response by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Bath & Wells.

We warmly welcome the Report written by Timothy Briden and congratulate him on his thorough examination of the evidence which led him to the explicit conclusion that the new allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded. There are no other allegations.

It is time to conclude a matter which has lasted altogether three and a half years. The investigative activities and processes of the church authorities themselves have been devastated by independent legal judgement. The assurances with which these authorities have justified themselves and effectively promoted a case against Bishop Bell in public have been discredited. Bishop Bell’s reputation is today vindicated and affirmed by authoritative opinion. What remains of the story is only a matter of contemporary church politics.

Read the full response of the George Bell Group (May 2019)

Statement May 2019

Since October 2015 when the Archbishops’ Council announced that they had paid compensation to the woman given the pseudonym ‘Carol’, who alleged that she had been abused by Bishop George Bell, his defenders have criticised the Church authorities for never once affording the Bishop the presumption of innocence.  Now, after the inquiries of Lord Carlile and Timothy Briden, it can be seen that the allegations against Bishop Bell were unfounded in fact.

THE CARLILE REVIEW

The Carlile report, whose conclusions (save as to publicity) the Church accepted, criticised the investigation of Carol’s allegations as a rush to judgment predicated on Bell’s guilt. It concluded that the decision to settle with Carol was indefensibly wrong and that the process completely ignored the Bishop’s reputation and the interests of his surviving family, including his very elderly niece.

The original statement by the Archbishops’ Council in October 2015 claimed that none of the expert independent reports had found reason to doubt Carol’s veracity. But Lord Carlile discovered that the only expert consulted by the Church thought it very likely that Carol’s experience of abuse in her first marriage had affected her recall, and that the possibility of false memories was a real one.

Regrettably Archbishop Welby added his authority to the destruction of Bell’s reputation: on Good Friday 2016, before the Carlile report was completed, he told BBC Radio that the investigation of Carol’s claim had been ‘very thorough’ and the finding of abuse correct on the balance of probabilities. We now know how far from the truth that was.

The Archbishop told Lord Carlile during his inquiry that if there had not been a proper investigation of Carol’s story, the Church would have to apologise. But sadly, when the Carlile report was published in December 2017, he chose not to do so. To the disappointment of Bell’s defenders, he appeared to reject the presumption of innocence; instead he commented that there was still ‘a significant cloud’ left over Bishop Bell’s name without giving any explanation of why he continued to hold that view in the face of Lord Carlile’s conclusions.

THE ‘FRESH INFORMATION’ AND THE BRIDEN PROCESS

The publicity given to the Carlile report appears to have triggered a copy-cat claim by the woman given the name Alison. The Core Safeguarding Group which had been responsible for the shambolic investigation of Carol’s claim now set about trying to substantiate that by Alison. They may well have hoped that the similar facts alleged by Alison would corroborate the discredited Carol. But within weeks the police, to whom the Core Group had reported the matter, closed their enquiries.  Next an investigation by a senior retired police officer commissioned by the Church quickly showed that Alison’s evidence was unreliable and incapable of supporting any adverse finding against the Bishop.

Mr Briden reported that her account not only had internal inconsistencies but was also contaminated by her having read Carol’s story, a contamination revealed by her repeating verbatim some of Carol’s words which had been reported in the press. He ended his report by saying that all the allegations against George Bell remitted to him were unfounded.

Many will have hoped that on reading Mr Briden’s report Archbishop Welby would have publicly acknowledged that the cloud of which he had previously spoken had been dissipated. He did not do so.

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH NOW

The history of the treatment by the Church of England of the reputation of George Bell has become a scandal.

It is now the plain duty of the Church of England, nationally and in the Diocese of Chichester, to make amends by working to restore Bishop Bell’s reputation, not least in institutions which were once proud to adopt his name.

We welcome the decision of Canterbury Cathedral to revive a commission to create a statue of Bell and note the expression of ‘delight’ with which the Archbishop of Canterbury has responded. We acknowledge with gratitude the firmness with which the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford have maintained and cherished the chapel there dedicated to Bell’s memory throughout the controversy. We note that the meeting room dedicated to Bishop Bell remains, as before, at the World Council of Churches in Geneva.

It is only in Chichester itself, the place in which Bishop Bell lived and worked for almost thirty years and where his ashes are interred in the cathedral, that any public adoption of his name is now suppressed.

We find the public stance of the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, incomprehensible and indefensible. The Bishop’s ‘Response’ to the Briden Report, published on 24 January 2019 and now promoted on the websites of the diocese and cathedral, only went as far as to acknowledge that ‘Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty’. He added that it could not be ‘safely claimed that the original complainant [i.e. Carol] had been discredited’. This is a most regrettable insinuation that there was, or likely was, substance to Carol’s allegation and hence that Bell was to be suspected of abuse.

The Bishop emphasised the defamatory innuendo by asking ‘those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognise the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.’ There is, regrettably, no evidence in this response of the Bishop’s commitment to justice or of any compassion towards those who are wrongly accused. His words have been repeated verbatim by the Bishop at Lambeth in response to a Question at the recent session of the General Synod of the church. Indeed, the Bishop even invoked the authority of the House of Bishops in support of this view. So far as we are aware the House has never even discussed the matter.

Such words simply preserve the impression that there was, and remains, a case against Bell. A not dissimilar state of mind was revealed by the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Officer when he told the Child Abuse Inquiry in March 2018 that ‘all the indications we have would suggest that the simplest explanation for why someone comes forward to report abuse – because they were abused – is likely to be the correct one’.

As the High Court Judge Sir Richard Henriques has pointed out in his report to the Metropolitan Police on allegations against prominent individuals, such an assumption results in an investigation which does not challenge the complainant, tends to disbelieve the suspect and shifts onto the suspect the burden of proof, ignoring any presumption of innocence. It becomes a premise for a miscarriage of justice such as can now be seen to have been inflicted on the reputation of George Bell.

It should be sufficient to observe that like Professor Anthony Maden, Lord Carlile did interview this first complainant. We note Lord Carlile’s statement of 1 February 2019, made to the local campaigner Mr Richard Symonds: ‘The Church should now accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and that after due process, however delayed, George Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.’

We are more than conscious that this saga represents a wider pattern in the Church and across society where many other such miscarriages of justice have become notorious. Now it is surely essential that if all the many safeguarding bodies, national and diocesan, are to be retained by the Church of England their work must be placed under real legal discipline and in the hands of officers who observe fully the expectations and rule of law and act without fear or prejudice.

There must never again be any repetition of such a discreditable, indeed disgraceful, performance.

Andrew Chandler, Convenor of George Bell Group, 9 May 2019