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)
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 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 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 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.
Page 129 -Paras. 2-19 – Richard Scorer [Counsel for the complainants, victims and survivors represented by Slater & Gordon]: “…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a retired child protection lawyer. He points out that diocesan staff are typically trained in theology and Canon law, not in safeguarding or child protection law. As a result, he says, many of those making a decision about safeguarding in the Church of England have no credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex situation. Interestingly, Mr Sewell makes that point both in relation to the treatment of complainants of abuse, but also in regard to the mishandling, in his view, of the George Bell case. He sees the failings on both of those aspects as two sides of the same coin, a fundamental problem, in his view, being a lack of competence and specialist knowledge, particularly legal knowledge and experience gained in a practical safeguarding context”
Page 154 – Paras 1-25 – Roger Meekings: There are one or two things I would like to say, chair. I think there have been a number of crises and difficulties that the Church of England have experienced, and I think it probably is time for some fairly radical action to be taken by the church, and I know they are thinking carefully about that, but I think my problem is the amount of time it does seem to be taking. I would like to ask a question, really, about whether they should be stripped of their exemption under the Equality Act to help stamp out a culture of abuse and homophobia and sexism, because under the 2010 Act, the church, as a religious institution, has special permission to insist that those it appoints are Christians, but it can also discriminate over sex, sexuality, marital history and gender identity if they conflict with strongly held religious convictions.
Secondly, I would probably support the development now of an independent safeguarding body. Operationally, I’m surprised that the church has not already set up a national database to record cases of concern and to upload case notes and allow a proper audit trail. I think I said in my witness statement I think that the Clergy Discipline Measure does require a complete overhaul to be able to hold people to account.
“The area which he [Lord Carlile] has rightly…identified is that there was nobody there [in the Core Group] to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again…is something that I think was wrong…” ~ The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018 – Page 21 Paras 14-18
Fiona Scolding QC and Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner
Q. Can I turn now to the allegations made against
3 George Bell. An independent review was published
4 in December by Lord Carlile of Berriew. Paul, would you
5 mind getting that up? It is not in your bundle, chair
6 and panel, so we will get it up on screen. ANG000152,
7 Paul. Then we need page 64, which should be section K.
8 This is some conclusions that I am going to ask you
9 to comment upon that Lord Carlile made in respect of
10 the core group.
11 Maybe if I explain, what happened in respect of
12 the George Bell case is that something called a core
13 group was set up, which was a group of individuals. Did
14 that include you? I can’t actually remember?
15 A. I was present at some meetings, but not at others.
16 Q. So there were a number of people — so Colin Perkins was
17 involved, and we will hear some quite detailed evidence
18 from him about his view about the Carlile Report. So
19 I am not going to take you through it in any detail.
20 I just want to deal with this bit, as you were a member
21 of the core group at some point in time.
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. They met regularly in order to, firstly, investigate,
24 and, secondly, to reach conclusions.
25 There is criticism of the core group. It is
1 described by Lord Carlile as “unmethodical and
2 unplanned” and “it was a confused and unstructured
3 process at which members had no coherent notion of their
4 roles and what was expected of them”. Would you like to
5 comment upon that? Is that your understanding?
6 A. These are stringent and harsh observations which largely
7 we accept. We were in a situation here of breaking new
8 ground. The formation of a core group was something
9 which we were unfamiliar with, which has subsequently
10 been regulated for us, and we were also, of course, very
11 aware of working in the context of a serious criminal
12 allegation against a person of a massive international
13 and national reputation.
14 So I think the failures of consistency, of sense of
15 purpose and how we were to function, those
16 allegations — those criticisms are valid against us.
17 I don’t think, however, that that means we were
18 cavalier or unaware of the seriousness of
19 the responsibilities that we were trying to carry out.
20 Q. Paul, could we turn to the next page, because that’s in
21 fact where my quotation comes from. Yes. So we have
22 254(i). The other matter I want to put to you is, it
23 further comments down at (v):
24 “There was no organised or valuable enquiry or
25 investigation into the merits of the allegations, and
Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018
6 (Pages 21 to 24)
1 the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or
3 What is your response to that?
4 A. The question of an organised or valuable inquiry is
5 something of a value judgment, I think, and we certainly
6 didn’t feel that there was no serious inquiry into that
7 which was undertaken through our insurers and their
8 legal representative in whom we had considerable trust
9 and regard and who Lord Carlile also recognises as
10 a responsible and able person.
11 I see him to say that the standpoint of Bishop Bell
12 was never given parity or proportionality. It was
13 certainly given proportionality. We understood
14 absolutely that was the case. I think the area which
15 he’s rightly also identified is that there was nobody
16 there to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again, with
17 the benefit of hindsight, is something that I think was
18 wrong and we have welcomed —
19 Q. That’s (ix), chair and panel, just so that you know.
20 A. We would recognise it would represent best practice now
21 in the ways in which we have outlined our procedures.
22 Q. Can I ask, why was the decision taken to issue a public
23 statement about the George Bell case, because that’s
24 something that Lord Carlile does also critique?
25 A. Yes.
1 Q. Perhaps you would like to explain?
2 A. We were very aware of working in the light of
3 the recommendations in the interim report of
4 the archbishop’s commissaries, which had been very clear
5 that no settlement with a survivor should include
6 a gagging clause. Of course you could say there’s
7 a difference between a gagging clause and making
8 a public statement, but it was very strongly felt that
9 to settle and to write a letter of apology and to make
10 no public statement, with no indication as to whether or
11 not those actions would become public, would look very
12 quickly like cover-up. Therefore, we felt that there was
13 an obligation on us to be open about what it was that we
14 were proposing to do.
15 Q. If I can just identify that Lord Carlile at
16 paragraphs 267 and 268 of his report — ANG000152, Paul,
17 at page 68, says:
18 “I am sure that the archbishop does not think it
19 appropriate to support the publication of what may be an
20 unjustified and probably irreparable criticism of
21 anyone, whether a celebrated bishop or not.”
22 And at 268:
23 “I regard this as a case, perhaps a relatively rare
24 one, in which steps should and could have been taken to
25 retain full confidentiality, with a clear underlying
1 basis for explaining why it was done. For Bishop Bell’s
2 reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way
3 that occurred was just wrong.”
4 Do you have any comment you wish to make about that?
5 A. The first comment I would want to make is that, I think
6 we have learnt a painful lesson about the difficulty of
7 communicating through the media a very fine legal
8 nuance, and it’s recognised by Lord Carlile that we
9 never asserted the guilt of Bishop Bell, but to
10 communicate that in terms that the general public are
11 going to understand through the media is a very
12 difficult thing to do. Therefore, I think he does raise
13 an important question here about dealing with posthumous
14 cases, but also about being fair, I think, and
15 recognising the legitimacy and substance to an
16 allegation which we certainly felt was necessary with
17 Carol, the name that’s used for the person who brought
18 the case.
19 Q. Can we turn now, if we may, to another topic…
Q. [to Colin Perkins) Can I ask you now — I think begin to ask you — about
25 the situation in respect of Bishop George Bell. You
1 have provided a — you provided some details about it
2 within your first witness statement. But you also have
3 a supplementary statement in which you comment upon your
4 views about the report of Lord Carlile of Berriew.
5 I want to mainly take you, because I will say again, as
6 I have said several times, we are not interested in the
7 truth or otherwise of the allegations concerning
8 George Bell. I also understand from information which
9 has been — which is in the public domain that there is
10 another allegation. I will not be asking you about
12 So if I can just identify, what happened in respect
13 of the George Bell case is that there was a core group,
14 you were part of that core group, consistently, which
15 was set up. What was your understanding of the purpose
16 of the core group?
17 A. If I may, I should say that the core group first met
18 13 months after the first email from Carol came in. She
19 emailed initially to Lambeth Palace April 2013. That
20 was forwarded to me.
21 Q. I think you set out — I don’t think we need to turn it
22 up, but paragraphs 392 to 398, chair and panel, of
23 the statement deal with what steps were taken.
24 A. Exactly. So the steps were essentially to offer support
25 and Gemma Wordsworth was the person who was doing all of
Day 9 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 15 March 2018
1 that throughout the rest of 2013, and actually
3 A civil claim was entered in I believe it was early
4 2014 and the core group was essentially — I think it
5 met in early — in May 2014, essentially to respond to
6 the matters arising from that. I don’t think we
7 initially called it a core group, because practice
8 guidance was still emerging at the time. So it was
9 effectively a meeting between key diocesan and national
10 personnel. It became called the core group because that
11 was the term in the emerging guidance. But I don’t
12 think it was initially called one.
13 Q. At paragraph 6 of your supplementary witness statement,
14 which is, just for the record, ACE0262843_003, chair and
15 panel, of that document, you refer to three documents:
16 a briefing note; a George Bell review timeline of key
17 decisions; and a safeguarding timeline overview.
18 Now, if we could get the first one of those up,
19 ACE026290. So this is the briefing note that took place
20 prior to the first core group meeting, which, as you
21 have said, wasn’t actually called that, in May 2014, and
22 this was just to inform everybody about the nature of
23 the case?
24 A. Yeah, myself and Gemma wrote this to make sure that
25 everyone in the meeting had an appraisal of where
1 things — where we were at.
2 Q. Just to — I mean, I think everyone is familiar probably
3 in this room with the allegations in respect of
4 George Bell, but there was an allegation made by Carol
5 of inappropriate touching in the late 1950s. It would
6 appear that the complainant wrote to Eric Kemp in 1995.
7 That letter was on a file. That was then not
8 discovered. Then she then wrote again in 2013 to
9 Lambeth Palace and it was then discovered that the
10 letter had taken place in 1995 and that matters then
11 progressed from there. But it does appear that the file
12 had not been subject to the 2008/2009 past cases review.
13 A. That’s so.
14 Q. I understand there is some reference in one of
15 the documents — and I’m afraid I couldn’t find it —
16 that somebody called it — it was found in the “naughty
17 boys’ cabinet” or something like that. What is that?
18 A. Gosh, that’s an unfortunate phrase, isn’t it?
19 Q. Yes.
20 A. In the corridor in Bishop’s Palace, there is a cabinet
21 to the right which is effectively closed disciplinary
22 cases, so that’s — someone has called it the “naughty
23 boys’ cabinet”. So that’s what’s in there.
24 Q. I understand the reference, if we want to see it, is
25 ANG000030_017 to 018. Thank you, Mr Greenwood.
1 A. Opposite that is a cabinet of largely administrative
2 files that are nothing to do with personnel; maybe to do
3 with a particular trust or a particular building. Upon
4 receiving Carol’s letter, Gemma and I went to the palace
5 to see if we could find, well, anything on George Bell,
6 and so we happened to look in that cabinet, not really
7 expecting —
8 Q. Is that the “naughty boys’ cabinet” or the trust deed
9 cabinet, so to speak?
10 A. No, I would have already seen it if it was in the
11 disciplinary cabinet, because I’d gone through that when
12 I first arrived —
13 Q. Right.
14 A. — for obvious reasons. The administrative cabinet, we
15 found just a loose manila folder of — that contained
16 almost all correspondence about George Bell. It was
17 things to do with the 50th anniversary of his death. It
18 was largely people writing in, “I was visiting the
19 cathedral. I was thinking about George Bell and his
20 work in World War II”, et cetera, et cetera. It was
21 that kind of material. We really therefore had no
22 expectation of finding anything, and then we did find
23 this letter from 1995 and the associated material.
24 Q. So this briefing note was given to everyone. Could we
25 just look briefly through the briefing note. Can you
1 just talk us through it. I don’t think you need to talk
2 us through — could we go to — is it just one page or
3 does it go over to the next page? It goes over to the
4 next page. Right. It sets out basically the
5 chronology, what’s happened when and the fact that there
6 have been some difficulties. Is that right?
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. There is then a timeline of key decisions. So this was
9 prepared in advance of a review meeting held
10 in June 2016. This is ACE026297, tab 50.
11 I’m assuming that this is prepared for
12 Lord Carlile’s benefit?
13 A. Not — sorry, not at that point, no. This was the
14 meeting at Lambeth Palace, as far as I remember, this
15 was the meeting at which it was decided to commission
16 a review which then was the review that Lord Carlile was
17 asked to do. So this was that meeting. He hadn’t been
19 Q. Do you mind, Paul, if we just switch forward slightly on
20 this. There is more than one page. In other words,
21 it’s a chronology which says what happened when. So
22 you’ve got “Email” and then “Detail and comment” and
23 then where it comes from; is that right?
24 A. Exactly.
25 Q. Thank you very much. The third document is
1 “Safeguarding timeline overview”, which is, again,
2 another summary also produced for the June 2016 meeting.
3 That’s ACE026288, please, Paul. Again, what’s this?
4 A. I think it — I believe it was a summary of the previous
6 Q. So this is kind of, “We know that some people are not
7 going to read the entire document, so I’m going to give
8 you the headlines”?
9 A. Essentially.
10 Q. An executive summary, I believe is the word that’s
11 usually used?
12 A. Yes.
13 Q. That’s fine. Can you describe the approach that you
14 considered what then became known as the core group were
15 taking when they were looking at the situation in
16 respect of Carol? I mean, you detail this in your
17 submission to Lord Carlile in July 2017, but it would be
18 useful to have that precised, really?
19 A. Yes, I’m trying to think how to precis it. The approach
20 of the core group was — it was effectively to — or the
21 approach of the meeting that became the core group was
22 effectively to decide how to respond to the perhaps
23 fairly unique situation we were presented with. As
24 I said, by that point, support to Carol had been offered
25 for over a year. She’d spoken to the police. There’d
1 been some counselling provided, and so on and so forth.
2 But I suppose it was the situation that really arose
3 from the receipt of the civil claim, and it was — we
4 were very mindful of —
5 Q. Can I just check. In fact, the civil claim — one of
6 the difficulties with the Carol situation is the fact
7 that the church is not insured in claims against
8 bishops — well, I think it probably is now but it
9 wouldn’t have been at the relevant time that the
10 insurance arose?
11 A. Yes, and that was, I think, one of the prompts for that
12 meeting. I think that for me that is an essential part
13 of understanding what happened here, that we were in
14 a very unusual situation of a civil claim coming in that
15 was uninsured, and, therefore, it wasn’t clear to whom
16 that effectively — to whom the liability belonged.
17 I should say, as I think I allude to in my
18 supplementary statement, there was a backdrop here, and
19 the backdrop was that we would also — well, the church,
20 that any civil claim with regards to Peter Ball would
21 have been in that same position.
22 I wasn’t involved in any of the discussions around
23 this, but I was aware that discussions were taking
24 place, that there could have been a very —
25 a potentially large number of civil claims coming in
1 from around Peter Ball that would have also been
2 uninsured. So I think — as I said, I wasn’t involved
3 in any of those conversations, but there was an
4 awareness that any decision made around the George Bell
5 claim, there was a wider context.
6 Q. The approach that you have taken may — some people may
7 perceive it as a “believe anyone” approach. What were
8 you trying to do, or what do you think the core group
9 was trying to do? Because obviously Lord Carlile
10 thought that you were approaching it in the same way as
11 you would approach any other civil claim, so you were
12 trying to make a decision, you know, “Should this
13 individual be believed on the balance of probabilities
14 or shouldn’t they?” Was that the aim and objective of
15 the core group?
16 A. If I could just take those points in order?
17 Q. Of course.
18 A. In terms of the “believe anyone” approach, that’s
19 actually never been the approach that — I can only
20 speak for my team, but that — said in those terms, it
21 sounds quite pejorative. It sounds quite —
22 Q. That’s —
23 A. No, no —
24 Q. I’m saying it to challenge you.
25 A. I understand.
1 Q. Because that’s what critics of it would say?
2 A. Exactly. So I understand the caricaturing of that kind
3 of approach is a sort of naive, believing anyone no
4 matter how fantastical the allegation, that has never
5 been the approach of my team. But the approach of my
6 team has very much been a willingness to take very
7 seriously anyone making an allegation and to offer the
8 support that would be offered essentially if the
9 allegation is true. So it’s not assessing the
10 allegation before support is offered, but it’s
11 essentially offering the support on the assumption that
12 it could be true. I’m probably articulating that quite
13 badly, but that’s the approach of my team.
14 In terms of, by the time the core group met, we were
15 aware that the civil claim would have to be assessed, so
16 almost by definition, the core group didn’t meet with
17 that kind of “believe anyone” approach because it was
18 meeting to start thinking about how were we going to
19 assess that claim.
20 Q. But was it meant to be an investigative process, kind of
21 a way of saying — or was it — I mean, please explain?
22 A. Yes. The first meeting, May 2014, was essentially, how
23 are we going to proceed? The second meeting, I believe
24 it was in July 2014, was — the advice received from the
25 lawyer who — the lawyer who was acting in the civil
1 claim, although by that point it wasn’t entirely clear
2 who was instructing her because of this concern about
3 with whom did liability rest, but the lawyer acting in
4 that situation effectively — we were quite soon getting
5 into conversations about, should there be some kind of
6 publicity, should there be some kind of, you know,
7 acknowledgement that this claim or this allegation has
8 been made against this huge historical figure, and her
9 advice was very clear: you don’t have much ability to
10 test the claim, because it’s so old, but you do have —
11 sorry, to test the allegation, but you do have a civil
12 claim, so if you were to go public in any way before you
13 have tested that claim, before that claim is settled or
14 resolved, then you will be open to, you know, exactly
15 the kind of allegation of, “Well, you just — you know,
16 you jumped the gun”. So her advice was, allow this
17 claim to run, effectively; let’s do all of the things we
18 normally do in civil claims, instruct psychiatrists and
19 verify what can be verified and so on and so forth.
20 Once that is done, if the claim is settled, then
21 consider what to do about publicity.
22 So that’s what happened. Really, looking back, we’d
23 all acknowledge that I think this was where the problem
24 arose, that at that point, very unusually indeed, the
25 core group became quite intricately involved with the
1 civil claim and the response to the civil claim —
2 perhaps not quite that they became synonymous, but it
3 was getting there. I think we’d all look back and say
4 that should have been held much more separately.
5 MS SCOLDING: I don’t know whether, chair, this might be an
6 appropriate moment to break, because I’m about to start
7 on the response to the Carlile Report which I think will
8 take us past a reasonable hour. So I don’t know whether
9 now might be an appropriate moment?
10 THE CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. Thank you very much,
11 Mr Perkins.
12 MS SCOLDING: Don’t forget, Mr Perkins, you are under oath.
13 Thank you.
14 (4.24 pm)
15 (The hearing was adjourned until
16 Friday, 16 March 2018 at 10.00 am)
Fiona Scolding QC – Q. He [Lord Carlile] identifies that one of the other issues is that
24 there wasn’t adequate engagement and involvement of
25 Bishop Bell’s family or people speaking on Bishop Bell’s
1 behalf. I think you accept that critique, don’t you?
Perkins – 2 A. I accept that critique,
15 Q. Was it the situation that there was scant, if any,
16 regard to Bishop Bell’s good character? Because that
17 comes out of this at various other points in his
18 conclusions? Paragraph 56 of Lord Carlile’s conclusion,
19 he says:
20 “… scant, if any, regard to … Bishop Bell’s good
21 character [was paid].”
22 Again, he also argued that there was deliberate
23 destruction of the reputation of George Bell. What do
24 you say to those two things?
25 A. In terms of the regard given to his good character, the
1 esteem, he also talks about that —
2 Q. You deal with this at paragraph 70 and onwards of your
3 witness statement. Maybe if you would like to turn that
4 up for your own benefit. Chair and panel, that’s
5 page 25 of Mr Perkins’ supplementary witness statement?
6 A. We were very mindful indeed of the reputation of
7 George Bell, and in many ways the reputation of
8 George Bell is why we were holding the core group in the
9 first place. I have just mentioned a number of other
10 allegations we’d received about deceased clergy. Most
11 of those are obscure clergy, and didn’t generate this
12 level of action. Because we were aware of the weight of
13 his reputation and the likely impact of people reacting
14 to any actions we took, to some extent that was the
15 reason that we were having this nationally chaired
16 meeting involving staff from both the national church
17 and Chichester.
18 But I am very surprised at the extent to which,
19 certainly throughout the last two and a half years,
20 there have been many calls, and I am concerned that some
21 of those calls have correctly or otherwise perceived
22 a high level of support from within Lord Carlile’s
23 report for the suggestion that a great man such as Bell
24 cannot possibly have also been an abuser.
25 As I outlined in my statement, that runs against
1 a lot of the evidence that I’m aware of internationally
2 with regards to child sexual offenders within
3 institutions. If I may, I think there’s one other point
4 that I particularly want to make on that, and for me
5 this is quite an important point: Carol gave an
6 interview to the Brighton Argus in February 2016 —
7 sorry, 2014 — no, I’m getting my dates wrong, it was
8 2016, in response to the controversy. In that interview
9 she said, “I know that George Bell was a man of peace,
10 but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do these things to me”.
11 It always struck me as very powerful that, of all of
12 the people in this narrative, she has managed to keep
13 the balance and she has managed to articulate very
14 powerfully that it’s possible that he was both.
15 Q. I think at paragraph 70 of your witness statement you
16 identify some research that the NSPCC did in educational
17 settings which often found that those who sexually
18 abused students are often the most competent and popular
19 of staff and are often — I think the word used by the
20 NSPCC is “adored”?
21 A. Yes. The evidence — much of the evidence this inquiry
22 has heard, much of the academic evidence throughout the
23 world, suggests, again, going back to Nigel Speight’s
24 quote, that people find it extremely difficult to
25 believe that especially their admired leaders, or
1 admired teachers within that educational setting,
2 sometimes the teachers that are the most popular could
3 also be guilty of abuse. We know that’s worldwide
5 Q. There are two technical issues I want to raise.
6 Lord Carlile criticises the core group, and this is at
7 paragraph 167 of his report, page 044, chair and panel,
8 if you want to get it up, B47. He identifies — he says
9 that one of the things that you got wrong was not
10 understanding that he wouldn’t — had he been alive, he
11 wouldn’t have satisfied the arrest conditions, is what
12 he says.
13 So you mistakenly — what I think he indicates is,
14 having read the minutes, he believes that what happened
15 was, you all thought he would be arrested, he would have
16 been arrested, and therefore that was something which
17 fed into your consideration of whether or not the civil
18 claim should be settled?
19 A. Firstly, I’m not sure that he’s correct about that,
20 having worked with Sussex Police on a large number of
21 cases. I’m actually just not sure that he’s correct.
22 I think he may well have been.
23 But he largely suggested that we were so
24 inexperienced within the criminal justice system that we
25 conflated arrest with charge with conviction. As I say
1 in my statement, that is simply not the case. There
2 were plenty of very experienced safeguarding
3 professionals with, between us, decades of experience
4 within the criminal justice system who were perfectly
5 capable of separating those things out.
6 Q. Thank you. He also identifies that you hadn’t followed
7 the basic prosecutorial process of looking at whether or
8 not something had happened and whether or not — you
9 know, the two-stage test which the CPS identified. Do
10 you have any comment that you wish to make about that?
11 A. Well, he specifically criticises that Sussex Police
12 hadn’t communicated properly to us that process. He
13 identifies Detective Inspector EF as the person who
14 should have, but didn’t, correctly communicate that to
15 us. He identifies that from one email exchange in 2013,
16 right at the start, when we were arranging Carol’s
17 interview with Sussex Police.
18 As I say in my statement, between certainly myself
19 and Gemma, we probably had weekly contacts with DI EF
20 across a five-year period between Operation Perry and
21 Operation Dunhill, and I think it highlights my point
22 that making that conclusion based on one email exchange
23 rather than discussing that with us, where we could have
24 explained that level of contact, is one of my concerns
25 about the process of the report.
Day 10 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 16 March 2018
1 Q. He also recommends, Lord Carlile, at paragraph 170, that
2 there should have been specialist criminal law advice
3 provided to the group. What’s your view about that?
4 A. If I can just —
5 Q. It is page 44 of B47, chair and panel. Thank you very
6 much, Paul.
7 A. I’m just trying to find within my own statement —
8 Q. Oh, you deal with it at paragraph 57, Mr Perkins.
9 A. Thank you.
10 Q. Paragraphs 56, 57 and 58.
11 A. Thank you. Firstly, this was a civil claim, so tested
12 to the civil standard. So it’s still not clear, and
13 I believe not clear to others who are responding to
14 this, why a comment about whether or not it could have
15 been proved to the criminal standard would necessarily
16 help us in deciding whether it could have been proved to
17 the civil standard.
18 But, again, that comment seems to have ignored my
19 submission from July 2016, where I make really clear,
20 and the minutes make really clear, and the legal advice
21 provided to the core group makes really clear, we were
22 making a choice to believe.
23 There was — never at any point, in my recollection,
24 at any point in the core group, did anyone say, “He
25 would have been convicted for this, so we have no
1 choice”. That just wasn’t part of the discussion, which
2 I say in that paragraph.
3 Q. Which, again, Lord Carlile in his report at
4 paragraph 171 seems to identify that one of
5 the criticisms of the core group is they didn’t think
6 about whether or not he would have been prosecuted had
7 he been alive, and he identifies that the prospects of
8 successful prosecution were low. I think at
9 paragraph 57, you say —
10 A. Thank you.
11 Q. — “Well, we wouldn’t necessarily have asked ourselves
12 that question”?
13 A. We were fully aware that the chances of a conviction,
14 were he alive, were low, and, as I say at the end of
15 paragraph 57, external advice on that particular point,
16 was a criminal conviction likely, was not sought, not
17 because it never occurred to us to ask, but because the
18 answer was relatively obvious.
19 Q. Can I ask you just about two further points that he
20 raises at paragraph 155, if we can go back to that,
21 please, chair and panel, 038, please, Paul. Page 38,
22 chair and panel, of B47.
23 He identifies that one of the other issues is that
24 there wasn’t adequate engagement and involvement of
25 Bishop Bell’s family or people speaking on Bishop Bell’s
1 behalf. I think you accept that critique, don’t you?
2 A. I accept that critique, although in the submission from
3 the National Safeguarding Steering Group, I would also
4 emphasise the separation in that submission from the
5 action — between the actions of the core group, the
6 work of the core group, and the work of — I think it’s
7 called — a group — a body thinking about the
8 litigation. I am not sure that there should be within
9 the core group a person doing that, because the core
10 group is really managing a different situation. I think
11 that obviously and clearly should happen, but perhaps
12 within that different body. I think that’s the advice
13 from — or that’s the response from the National
14 Safeguarding Steering Group, which I would agree with.
15 Q. Two further issues: one about limitation; the second
16 about non-disclosure agreements. Obviously you are not
17 a lawyer, so I’m not going to ask you this. One of
18 the points that Lord Carlile raises is that nobody
19 seriously considered the limitation issue and/or that
20 the limitation issue should have been considered. Just
21 for the public, the usual rule is that such claims have
22 to be brought within — well, actually, in cases of
23 sexual violence, it is six years, but in cases of breach
24 of duty, ie negligence, it’s three years but with an
25 equitable time limit under section 33 of the Limitation
1 Act, which involves, in effect, looking at all the
2 circumstances and saying, is it there or isn’t it there.
3 Now, we understand from the Ecclesiastical Insurance
4 Office’s guiding principles that in an insured claim —
5 we dealt with this with Professor MacFarlane earlier in
6 the week — they only raise limitation exceptionally, so
7 to speak?
8 A. Yes.
9 Q. Was limitation something which was considered and
10 discussed within the context of the group?
11 A. It was —
12 Q. Just to say, “It was just too long ago. We can’t
13 possibly settle a claim on this basis”?
14 A. It was considered and discussed extensively in the
15 second core group, July 2014. The minutes make that
16 very clear. In fact, the explanation you’ve just given
17 is possibly almost verbatim the explanation that was
18 given to that core group, and, as the minutes show,
19 there was then an extensive discussion.
20 I think, again, that goes back to my problem about
21 the process of the Lord Carlile review.
22 What the minutes do not say is, “The purpose of
23 limitation was clearly explained”, largely because
24 everyone was fully aware. They were clearly explained
25 but the minutes don’t clearly say that.
Day 10 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 16 March 2018
9 (Pages 33 to 36)
1 Q. Of course, the issues of vicarious liability have
2 changed markedly over the past 10 years in respect of
3 cases of sexual violence against individuals?
4 A. Exactly.
5 Q. To make them a lot more generous than they were, shall
6 I put it that way?
7 A. Yes. But, as I say, the very fact that we had an
8 extensive discussion suggests that that — the point of
9 limitation was fully understood. That is certainly the
10 case: it was fully understood.
11 Q. Non-disclosure agreement. The other significant
12 criticism that Lord Carlile makes is, why wasn’t there
13 a confidentiality agreement put to this in order to
14 avoid what he considers to be unfair besmirching of
15 Bishop Bell’s reputation. I mean, that’s probably
16 putting it slightly higher than Lord Carlile puts it in
17 his report, so I’m slightly overegging that, but he
18 considers that it’s unfair. I think the church has
19 responded and said, “We think it was right that there
20 wasn’t a non-confidentiality agreement and we don’t
21 agree to — confidentiality agreements, I think, rather
22 than non-confidentiality agreements — think about NDA,
23 the US word for them. What’s your view about that, if
24 you have any?
25 A. As you said, the church has already rejected that
1 proposal. I was very glad to see that. As you said,
2 I’m not a lawyer, so I possibly shouldn’t stray into
3 this, but my understanding of —
4 Q. Well, from the perspective of somebody — you’ve
5 identified that you started this process trying to work
6 from the perspective of providing compassionate support
7 to victims and survivors?
8 A. Exactly.
9 Q. From that perspective, that’s your view?
10 A. From that perspective, my understanding of
11 Lord Carlile’s recommendation with regards to the
12 non-disclosure agreement or the confidentiality
13 agreement, he also suggests — my understanding of his
14 report is — that we should have settled the claim
15 with —
16 Q. Sort of no admission of liability?
17 A. No admission of liability. From my point of view, from
18 the perspective you just described, that would have
19 effectively been saying, “We are not accepting your
20 claim. We are not going to apologise. We are going to
21 perhaps provide some monetary settlement and we are
22 going to require you to sign a non-disclosure
23 agreement”. That is exactly the opposite of where
24 I think the church should be on this issue, from my
1 Q. Can we now — that’s been very helpful, and I think we
2 have got a very clear view from you of your critique of
3 that, which I know you were very clear that you wanted
4 to give to this inquiry.
5 Can we now turn to the more mundane topic, or maybe
6 more exciting topic, of what you actually do on
7 a day-to-day basis?….
A prime example is the evidence given on 15th-16th March by Colin Perkins. At the beginning of his evidence last Thursday, counsel to the inquiry, Fiona Scolding QC, asked that Mr Perkins’s three witness statements be “placed upon the website at a convenient and appropriate moment.” (Transcript, 15 March 2018, page 82). That moment should have been no later than when Mr Perkins took the oath, yet now, Sunday lunchtime, 18th March, they are still not available for the public to read.
“An illustration of the need for the statements to be published in advance is in the evidence Colin Perkins gave to the Inquiry about the Carlile report on Friday morning (Transcript, 16 March 2018, pages 1-34). Ms Scolding refers to certain passages in Mr Perkins’s witness statement in which he criticises aspects of Lord Carlile’s review. Those criticisms (at least so far as they appear from the extracts set out and commented on in the transcript) are selective and self-serving. One must ask whether Lord Carlile was done the courtesy of bring provided with a copy of the statement, or even being warned that he would be criticised at a public inquiry where he is not represented. One sentence in Mr Perkins’s evidence is telling: “… it is my job to try and articulate these things from the perspective of the victim.” (Transcript, 16 March 2018, pages 15-16) Where is the necessary objectivity, when Carol is regarded as victim, not complainant? No wonder one of Lord Carlile’s conclusions was “… the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on [Bell’s] guilt of what Carol alleged.” (Carlile Review, para 254(vi), page 65.)
~ David Lamming
“The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, admitted last week it had been a mistake not to give the late Bishop George Bell a defending counsel at the kangaroo court which wrongly convicted him of child abuse. When will he admit that he has made a similar mistake by refusing to allow Bell’s niece, Barbara Whitley, to pick a lawyer to defend him against the mysterious second allegation now levelled against him in secret? Too late, for sure”
Archbishop Justin Welby
Page 119-120 [Paras 21-25]
and at the heart of this has to be justice, and justice is a very, very difficult thing to find, as you know much better than I do, but we have to have a system that delivers justice. That is so important. And if it doesn’t, it’s not good enough.
Fiona Scolding QC
Page 123 [Paras 14-25] Page 124 [Paras 1-8]
Q. One of the points that Lord Carlile makes is that the church didn’t take a good enough account of…George Bell’s reputation. Now, we have heard from several individuals about their views about that. But what he seems to suggest is, you have to start — you know, this was such a Titanic figure that one must assume that his reputation is unblemished and, therefore, that has to be weighed very heavily in the balance. Do you have any response to that?
A. “I think the greatest tragedy of all these cases is that people have trusted, very often, those who were locally, in diocesan terms, or nationally Titanic figures, and have then found that they were not worthy of their trust. The fact that someone is a titanic figure doesn’t tell you anything at all, except that they have done remarkable things in one area. It doesn’t tell you about the rest of their lives. And it is not something that we can take into account” – Archbishop Justin Welby
“‘If Bishop Bell’s good reputation ‘is not something that we (The Church of England) can take into account’, then the Church of England [and Archbishop Welby as its leader] are breaking the law. As Lord Carlile has said, taking someone’s good reputation into account “is the law. In criminal cases especially, but also in civil cases, where the character of an alleged perpetrator is impugned by the allegation made, the court takes into account evidence of his good character. It does not mean that he can do no wrong. It is a factor to be weighed in the balance”‘
~ Richard W. Symonds
Rumpole: “I happen to have a good deal of faith”
Ballard: “Yes, in what precisely?”
Rumpole: “The health-giving properties of Claret. The presumption of innocence…that golden thread running through British justice”
I wrote to The #Bishop of Chichester, @DrMartinWarner, on 14th November 2015, asking some basic questions about the Church’s handling of the allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell. Dr Warner sent a prompt and courteous reply, dated 19th November.
At that time it was not even known that the complainant, later known as ‘Carol’, was a woman, and no detail had been published of where the alleged molestation had taken place. Nor was anyone allowed to know who had seen the evidence in the case, though there is no legal requirement for such secrecy. Even the #DeanofChichester had no direct knowledge of the facts, but relied on an assurance that he had been given that the evidence was incontrovertible.
Dr Warner’s letter to me contained some difficult passages. To start with, having said that the allegation against Bell was indeed disturbing, he asserted “We are all diminished by this.”
I do not know what this flourish means. It is plainly false to say that we are ALL diminished, but perhaps the Bishop meant that he and other church people were diminished in the public estimation by the way in which they had handled the case.
Dr Warner went on: “All facts that were capable of independent corroboration were corroborated.” Again, I do not know what this means. @LordCarlile’s review of the Church’s procedures yields little evidence of anyone trying to corroborate any facts.
Dr Warner went on to say that “evidence was exchanged.” This is uninformative, without any details being given of the parties to the exchange.
With regard to the conduct of the investigation he said “independent advice from all the professional disciplines which are usually involved in such claims was obtained, including of course independent legal advice, and the survivor ( this is what Church insists on calling her) was questioned in person about their (sic) evidence.”
I do not know what professional disciplines Dr Warner had in mind. Lord Carlile does record that two psychiatrists were instructed, with different terms of reference. @ProfessorAnthonyMaden, the one who was asked to comment on Carol’s credibility, said that the truth of her allegations could not be established without corroborative evidence, and that false memory could not be excluded.
An illustration of the unusual procedures of the Core Group, the investigative and decision-making body set up by the Church, is that Professor Maden’s report was circulated to some members in full, and to others only in summary.
Apart from the psychiatrists, there was contact with the police. Are these the “usual disciplines”?
As for legal advice, It was indeed available from a solicitor who advised the Group, but Carlile comments several times on its failure to instruct any criminal lawyer to advise it on the strength of the evidence.
Finally, in response to my question about the removal of Bell’s name from #GeorgeBellHouse, the Bishop answered that this was a matter for the Dean and Chapter. Yet they seem to have been almost as much in the dark as everyone else.
From these remarks by Dr Warner it does seem that he was not well informed about the proceedings of the Core Group, which appears to have been unable to investigate systematically, or to make decisions based on rational assessments. His relative ignorance is in a way understandable, as his attendance at the Group had been sporadic,and he was apparently not even invited to its fifth and final meeting.
But surely he must have been aware of the consensus to which the Group found its way, first that Bell was probably guilty, then that he probably had abused other children, and in the end that his name must be published, a public apology made and compensation paid? After all,in the end it was he who had to accept responsibility and sign thx letter.
One cannot tell what was going through Dr Warner’s mind, but he does seem to have been the victim of lax procedures and muddled thinking, which somehow affected his own assessment of the case.
In a day or two I shall continue the exegesis of pronouncements on the Bell matter by Dr Warner, @DrJustinWelby (the #ArchbishopofCanterbury) and perhaps other prelates.
Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3
At this hopeful time of year it is a pleasure to congratulate @LordCarlile QC on his review of the procedures followed by the @ChurchofEngland in dealing with sexual allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell of Chichester, who died in 1958. The allegations were first made in 1995 by a woman known only as ‘Carol’, and renewed in 2012 and 2013.
Carlile had not been asked to pronounce on Bell’s guilt or innocence, and he did not do so. What he did was to expose the startling deficiencies in the conduct and administration of the “ Core Group” set up by the Chichester diocese and the national church to look into the whole question. The Group was chaired by members of the diocesan Safeguarding Team, with the current @BishopofChichester , @DrMartinWarner, as a member, though he only attended three (or perhaps fewer) of its five meetings. It came to the conclusion that Bell was probably guilty, whereupon Warner publicly apologised and paid off the complainant.
The Core Group’s deficiencies, identified by Carlile, provide a lesson in how not to run an enquiry which might well be included in university courses. There was unacceptable discontinuity of attendance and chairmanship, papers were not always distributed in the same format to all members, no Advocatus Diaboli was appointed to watch Bell’s interests, the complainant was regarded as a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’ rather than as a complainant, no attempt was made to find any relations of Bell, nor his chaplain, who was still alive and well, though very old, and it seems that no serious attempt was made to test Carol’s allegations, nor to find any corroborative evidence. Carlile tartly says that he had to accept what he was told, that several Group members had extensive experience of the criminal justice system, but that unfortunately there was no evidence that they had shared it.
One of the.most shocking details is that the Group seems to have been determined to believe that Bell must have abused more than one child. Having discovered that he had been in close touch with the German Kindertransport, and had put up young British evacuees at the Palace, it apparently convinced itself that these opportunities for wrongdoing strengthened the case for believing in Bell’s guilt. In fact they strengthen the opposite case, for no whiff of complaint from anyone except Carol had ever been detected. The opportunities were there, but there is no evidence that Bell took them.
Carlile’s devastating review does not explicitly assign responsibility, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it rests with Dr Warner, and with the @ArchbishopofCanterbury himself, who was kept intermittently informed.
Tomorrow I hope to compare with Lord Carlile’s findings some statements made by Dr Warner in November 2015.
Follow me on Twitter: @ChristoHill3
“For Bishop Bell’s reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way that occurred was just wrong” ~ Lord Carlile
“I am appalled by the Church’s behaviour, particularly by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement ‘there is still a cloud over George Bell’s name’. They should admit entirely what they did was wrong. They dragged his reputation through the dirt, and they should now ‘make of penitential efforts’ – to use a term they will be familiar with – to put right what they have done” ~ Peter Hitchens