The Bishop of Chichester has issued a formal apology following the settlement of a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse against the Right Reverend George Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death on 3rd October 1958.
The allegations against Bell date from the late 1940s and early 1950s and concern allegations of sexual offences against an individual who was at the time a young child.
Following settlement of the claim the serving Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Dr. Martin Warner, wrote to the survivor formally apologising and expressing his “deep sorrow” acknowledging that “the abuse of children is a criminal act and a devastating betrayal of trust that should never occur in any situation, particularly the church.”
Bishop Warner paid tribute to the survivor’s courage in coming forward to report the abuse and notes that “along with my colleagues throughout the church, I am committed to ensuring that the past is handled with honesty and transparency.”
Tracey Emmott, the solicitor for the survivor, today issued the following statement on behalf of her client:
“The new culture of openness in the Church of England is genuinely refreshing and seems to represent a proper recognition of the dark secrets of its past, many of which may still not have come to light. While my client is glad this case is over, they remain bitter that their 1995 complaint was not properly listened to or dealt with until my client made contact with Archbishop Justin Welby’s office in 2013. That failure to respond properly was very damaging, and combined with the abuse that was suffered has had a profound effect on my client’s life. For my client, the compensation finally received does not change anything. How could any amount of money possibly compensate for childhood abuse? However, my client recognises that it represents a token of apology. What mattered to my client most and has brought more closure than anything was the personal letter my client has recently received from the Bishop of Chichester.”
The survivor first reported the abuse to the then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, in August 1995. Bishop Kemp responded to the correspondence offering pastoral support but did not refer the matter to the police or, so far as is known, investigate the matter further. It was not until contact with Lambeth Palace in 2013 that the survivor was put in touch with the safeguarding team at the Diocese of Chichester who referred the matter to the police and offered personal support and counselling to the survivor.
In his letter to the survivor Bishop Warner acknowledges that the response from the Diocese of Chichester in 1995, when the survivor first came forward, “fell a long way short, not just of what is expected now, but of what we now appreciate you should have had a right to expect then.”
In accordance with the recommendations of the Church Commissaries’ report into the Diocese of Chichester in 2012 the settlement does not impose any form of “confidentiality agreement” restriction regarding public disclosure upon the individual. In this case the survivor has expressed the desire to remain anonymous.
Following a meeting between the survivor and Sussex police in 2013, it was confirmed by the police that the information obtained from their enquiries would have justified, had he still been alive, Bishop Bell’s arrest and interview, on suspicion of serious sexual offences, followed by release on bail, further enquiries and the subsequent submission of a police report to the CPS.
A formal claim for compensation was submitted in April 2014 and was settled in late September of this year. The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which further investigations into the claim took place including the commissioning of expert independent reports. None of those reports found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim.
The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.
Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.
Notes to Editors
A copy of this statement can be found on the Church of England website and the Diocese of Chichester website.
For further information contact Lisa Williamson at the Diocese of Chichester Communications office on 01273 425791 or The Revd Dr Rob Marshall +44 (0) 7766 952113
The Rt. Revd. Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham in the Diocese of Chichester is available for interview today. Please use the above numbers or contact his office on 01403 211139
“Moral, legal and common sense appears to have deserted the Church of England. The Presumption of Innocence has been described as ‘the golden thread that runs through British justice’. That thread was broken by the October Statement, and replaced with the Presumption of Guilt. The Media – including the BBC – assumed Bishop Bell’s guilt on the basis of the Church’s Statement, and their subsequent headlines reflected that assumption. No attempt was made by the Church, immediately after the headlines, to correct the media interpretation of the Statement. This would strongly suggest a Presumption of Guilt on the Church’s part towards Bishop Bell” – Richard W. Symonds
“In this case, the scrutiny of the allegation has been thorough, objective, and undertaken by people who command the respect of all parties….” – Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner
Oct 22 2015 – “I would be grateful…if you could refrain from including George Bell in your guided tours and external presentations” – Dean of Chichester Cathedral, The Very Reverend Stephen Waine [to Cathedral Guides]
“Beware of throwing someone under the bus. Remember: the bus can shift into reverse” ~ Janette McGowen
“The professional approach is to neither believe nor disbelieve the complainant and their allegation. There is no right or entitlement for a complainant to be believed, but there is a right and entitlement for a complainant to be treated with respect, to take their allegation seriously, to listen with compassion, and to record the facts clearly. It would appear the Church regarded ‘Carol’ as a victim to be believed at all costs. There seems to have been a panicked rush to judgement in which an astonishing lack of judgement was made manifest. Bishop Bell was an easy target, disposable and dispensable…’thrown under the bus’ for reasons unknown” ~ Richard W. Symonds
Excerpt from the IPSO complaint against the Argus newspaper – October 2020
‘…Indeed, the subsequent report (published in December 2017) by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, who was commissioned by the Church of England to “conduct a Review into the way the Church of England dealt with a complaint of sexual abuse made by a woman known as ‘Carol’ against the late Bishop Bell,” said (critically) of the press statement of 22 October 2015, announcing the settlement and apology, that “it provided the following conclusions:
(i) The allegations had been investigated, and a proper process followed.
(ii) The allegations had been proved; therefore
(iii) There was no doubt that Bishop Bell had abused Carol.” (Carlile Review, para 237.)
Lord Carlile’s report, which condemned that statement, is not even mentioned in the Argus article. By contrast, even though Lord Carlile’s terms of reference did not ask him “to determine the truthfulness of Carol, nor the guilt or innocence of Bishop Bell” he stated clearly (para 171) “Had the evidence my review has obtained without any particular difficulty… been available to the Church and the CPS, I doubt that the test for a prosecution would have been passed.”‘
Richard Symonds of The Bell Society believes the General Synod of the Church of England and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse should investigate the Bishop of Chichester for being “economic with the truth” in his statements on his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases. He writes:
The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner makes very clear at the IICSA in March 2018, the Church’s insurance company at the time – presumably Ecclesiastical? – was fully involved in (and I’m sure was fully paid for) the advice to the Church, and presumably its Core Group, regarding Bishop Bell and ‘Carol’:
Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018 – Page 21 – Fiona Scolding QC: “The other matter I want to put to you is [quoting Lord Carlile]: ‘There was no organised or valuable enquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality.’ What is your response to that?”
Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner: “The question of an organised or valuable inquiry is something of a value judgement, I think, and we certainly didn’t feel that there was no serious inquiry into that which was undertaken through our insurers and their legal representative in whom we had considerable trust and regard and who Lord Carlile also recognises as a responsible and able person. I see him to say that the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. It was certainly given proportionality. We understood absolutely that was the case. I think the area which he’s rightly also identified is that there was nobody there to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again, with the benefit of hindsight, is something that I think was wrong…”
Mr. David Lamming, Church of England’s General Synod Member representing St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich, furthercomments: ‘Bishop Martin Warner’s answer to Fiona Scolding’s question at IICSA [Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse] on 14 March 2018 about the involvement of insurers in the settlement of ‘Carol’s’ claim (see…Richard Symonds’s comment) appears to be at odds with information he provided to me in 2016.’
At General Synod on 8 July 2016 I asked a question about the contribution to the settlement made by the Church Commissioners. The question was answered by the then First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith. In the light of his written answer, I asked by way of a supplementary “whether insurers were asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, whether and why they declined to do so?”’
This was Sir Andreas’s response: “You are accrediting the Church Commissioners with far more involvement in this case than you might think. We have a discretion to pay bishops’ costs, as you probably know, and we make judgments on what costs to bear on a variety of factors. In this case, the answers are really clear in my answer. I do not think I can add to them. There are the damages; there are the claimant’s legal costs and there are the Diocese of Chichester’s costs. We paid £29,800 of those and a private individual came forward, not an insurer, and paid the rest. I cannot add to that.”’
His answer led to the following exchange with Martin Sewell:
Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester): There is a very simple question on the table: did any insurer decline to indemnify? Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I have no idea whether an insurer was involved. We were not told about such a case. Mr Martin Sewell: Who would know? Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: The Diocese of Chichester would know. Mr Martin Sewell: Will that information be made available? Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I cannot speak for the Diocese of Chichester, I am afraid.’
In the light of this exchange I e-mailed the Bishop of Chichester on 25 July 2016, asking (inter alia), “Were insurers involved at any stage prior to the settlement with Carol? If so, were they asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, did they decline to do so or to indemnify the Diocese and, if so, why?”’
This was Bishop Martin’s reply in an e-mail on 29 July 2016: “No relevant insurance was held in respect of this claim, so no insurers were involved in the case and no requests were made to any insurer. As Sir Andreas said in his reply to the Synod, the costs and damages were paid by the Commissioners and a private individual who wishes to remain anonymous. The claim was made against me in my corporate capacity.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury was accused yesterday of persisting with a “malign” attack on Bishop George Bell after he refused to exonerate him following a “copycat” allegation of historic child sex abuse.
An official report published yesterday concluded that a 70-year-old allegation against Bishop Bell was unfounded. It found that the evidence of the complainant – a woman named only as “Alison” – was “unreliable” and “inconsistent”.
Alison had written to the Church of England, claiming she had been sexually assaulted by the bishop in 1949 when she was aged nine.
The letter was sent a week after the Church of England was found to have wrongly besmirched Bishop Bell in its handling of a previous complaint brought by a woman known only as “Carol”.
The latest report suggested that Carol’s allegation had “prompted a false recollection in Alison’s mind”.
Yesterday, the Most Rev Justin Welby “apologised unreservedly for the mistakes” in the handling of the complaint made by Carol. But he declined to publicly clear the former Bishop of Chichester of any wrongdoing or retract a statement that he had a “significant cloud … over his name” and that he had been accused of “great wickedness”.
In a private letter, however, sent to Bishop Bell’s closest surviving relative, his niece Barbara Whitley, he wrote: “Once again I offer my sincerest apologies both personally and on behalf of the Church. We did wrong to you and before God.”
Bishop Bell, one of the towering figures of the Church in the 20th century, has been unable to defend himself, having died in 1958. But his supporters urged the Church to restore his reputation after two reports exonerated him.
Ms Whitley, 94, said yesterday: “I would like to see my uncle’s name cleared before I die.”
Desmond Browne QC, a leading barrister who acted for the bishop’s family and who was christened by him in 1949, said: “What is now clear is that the investigations by two experienced lawyers [have established] George Bell’s innocence. But not once [has] the Archbishop of Canterbury offered Bell the presumption of innocence.”
Alison had alleged that Bell, the former bishop of Chichester, had sat her on his lap and “fondled her”.
But the report by Timothy Briden, an ecclesiastical lawyer and vicar general of Canterbury, concluded that in her oral evidence “her attempts to repeat what had been written in the letter displayed, however, a disturbing degree of inconsistency”.
Alison had alleged in the letter the abuse had taken place indoors in front of her mother but in oral testimony thought she had been assaulted outdoors. He concluded that her claim was “unfounded”.
The existence of Alison’s complaint made in December 2017 was made public by the Church of England at a time when it was facing increasing criticism for its handling of the earlier allegation by Carol. Alison’s claim was passed in January 2018 to police, who then dropped the case.
Bishop George Bell
Mr Briden also investigated a separate complaint made by an 80-year-old witness – known only as K in the report – that his mother had told him that she had seen Bishop Bell “carrying out a sexual act with a man over his Rolls-Royce” in 1967.
Bishop Bell died in 1958 and did not have a Rolls-Royce. The report said: “The longer that the statement from K’s mother is analysed, the more implausible it appears.”
Lord Carlile, the QC who carried out the damning inquiry into the handling of Carol’s claim, was scathing of the Church of England’s decision to make public the police inquiry into Alison’s complaint.
Lord Carlile said: “I am astonished that the Church [made] public the further complaint against Bishop Bell and the error has been proved by the conclusion of this latest inquiry.”
Prof Andrew Chandler, Bishop Bell’s biographer and spokesman for the George Bell Group, said “the claim by Alison appeared a copycat of Carol’s complaint”. Carol was paid £15,000 compensation in a legal settlement in October 2015.
In his statement yesterday, Archbishop Welby described Bishop Bell as a “remarkable role model”, adding: “I apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in the process surrounding the handling of the original allegation against Bishop George Bell.”
But he went on: “It is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation … and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet.”
The current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, also declined yesterday to exonerate his predecessor. But he accepted that a public statement he made signifying Bishop Bell’s guilt and released in 2015 after Carol’s claim was settled was probably now an error.
“Knowing what we now do [we] would want to re-examine that and I don’t think we would [make that statement].”
KINCORA, TARA, ROBIN BRYANS & THE BRITISH ISRAELITES
“The key to the activities of this particular group lies with Robin Bryans, a Northern Ireland born author who wrote prolifically under the pseudonym Robin Harbinson. He is a cousin of John Bryans, the leading figure in the Orange Order who became the Grand Master of Ireland, who was McGrath’s bible study teacher at the North Belfast Mission in the York Street area and who later attended prayer meetings and British Israelite meetings in McGrath’s home.”
The role of John Bryans Justice of the Peace, Grand Master of Ireland’s Heritage Lodge of the Orangemen 1970 is key to explaining why William McGrath, a sadistic abuser at Kincora chooses the name TARA for his paramilitary Loyalist organisation in 1966.
As noted by Paul Foot in his 1989 book ‘Who framed Colin Wallace?’ TARA was “an unusual choice of title for a Loyalist paramilitary group.” Unusual because the Hill of Tara was a symbol traditionally associated with Celtic pre-Christian Ireland and the Kings of Ireland, not for example, King William of Orange as inspiration to the loyalty of the Orangemen.
The choice of name becomes even more strange when you learn the Hill of Tara had traditionally been a symbol and place of protest and rebellion AGAINST British rule:
“In more recent history, Tara has been the site of important political events, indicating its continuing significance for the Irish people. In 1798, rebels of the Irish revolution fought British troops on the Hill of Tara, and in 1843, a peaceful demonstration of some 750,000 people protested against Ireland’s union with Britain.” [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/hill-of-tara]
However, Chris Moore identified 18 years ago this was actually a very apposite name in the context of a deep heritage provided by the British Israelite belief system/myth McGrath which subscribed to with a specific twist for Protestant Evangelism that had grown up in the Orange Lodges of the time. This is just one of the many subjects Robin Bryans/Harbinson tries to address in The Dust Has Never Settled as relevant to understanding some of the reasons for why the abuse and prostitution of boys at Kincora and Lisburn locations was taking place. Chris Moore interviewed Robin Bryans in 1990 to discover Anthony Blunt’s association with the man he called ‘Hellfire Jack’ – the same Rev. John Bryans Justice of the Peace, who later became International Head of the Orangemen and someone who could be said to be one of McGrath’s mentors.
On 28 June 1970 Ireland’s Heritage Orange Lodge was formed.
“The Grand Master of the Orange Order, the Rev. John Bryans, who was also a British Israelite…helped to inaugurate the lodge.” (Paul Foot, p.121)
Four years previously McGrath had siezed control of a group and renamed it ‘Tara’ with the slogan “We hold Ulster that Ireland might be saved and Britain reborn.” He’d been holding British Israelite meetings at his house at Wellington Park where Rev. John Bryans would attend.
“Tara was to be the vehicle by which the undercover elements of the British establishment would lift McGrath’s star into the political ascendancy.” (Chris Moore)
Bryans relates that John Bryans turned 100 in 1985 and there was a little ceremony with the Superintendent of the North Belfast Mission and appears to wish to draw attention to the fact that John Bryans had taken his mother’s surname and the fact that John Bryans fiery dedication to the British Israelite cause had in part crystallised when he said as a 12 year old he made 2,000 bricks a day. This enabled Bryans to preach with conviction when comparing himself with the Children of Israel in Egyptian bondage.
“I’m sure that as your knowledge of the Old Testament grew it must have struck a chord with you to note that the Israelites for whom you have a special admiration had to make bricks when they were under the heel of the Pharoah, and yet they came through.” (Robin Bryans, p.139)
In 1992 Robin Bryans (1928 – 2005) published his autobiography The Dust Has Never Settled. The excerpt to the left details the history of the Belfast Central Mission (1889-1989) a Methodist Church founded in 1889 by Rev Crawford Johnson.
He wrote : “Others have linked my name with the cover-up of sex scandals at Kincora Boys’ Home and my appeals for action about the abuses which were ignored by Cabinet Ministers.”
“Robin Bryans was born on 24 April 1928, into a Protestant working-class family in the east of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He had an adventurous and colourful life which included working as a cabin boy on a Belfast Lough dredger, shepherding in the Western Highlands of Scotland, studying at Barry Religious College in South Wales, teaching in north Devon, working as a missionary in Canada, diamond prospecting in Canada and South America, hunting and trapping with the Blackfoot and Stony tribes in Canada, working in the theatre, lecturing in Venezuela, travelling to the Windward Islands, Copenhagen, Zurich and Asia, and being chased from Grenada by a hurricane.
As explained in Bryans’ fourth autobiography, The Protégé, the aristocracy took him under their wing. This new role suited him admirably, transforming him from a Belfast backstreet boy into a ‘lifelike toff’.
His twelve travel books included Gateway to the Khyber and Summer Saga: A Journey In Iceland, works full of detail, humour and fascinating anecdotes. For his later travel writing, he specialised in destinations influenced by Portuguese culture, as in Madeira, Pearl of the Atlantic, The Azores and Fanfare for Brazil.
In the sixties his attention turned to his native Northern Ireland and Ulster: A Journey Through The Six Counties revels in the local art and architecture, great country houses with their landscaped gardens, all of which he also pursued in many television programmes, for instance with Ulster Television, which became very popular.
Bryans’ view on life was refreshingly different from that of any other author, and, combined with his wide-ranging geographic knowledge, and skill at drawing out the characters of the people he met, made his work a treasure trove of human documentary.
Classical musicians featured in Bryans’ later life – he worked as an opera librettist and created a music school to encourage the work of composers, conductors and instrumentalists.
Bryans died on 11 June 2005, after a long illness, but in 2006, his writing was celebrated by no less than seventeen entries in The Ulster Anthology (Blackstaff Press, Belfast).”
Bryans grew up at 130, Donegall Avenue (“the house was an evangelical stronghold” until his family had moved in), in 1930s Belfast from a family of well-connected staunch Orangemen. From his grandfather Dick Bryans who was a staunch Orangeman to his father Richard, a committed bandsman for the parades to father’s cousin John Bryans, or ‘Hellfire Jack’ as he became known, (later reaching the heights of Head of the International Order of Orangemen before his death in 1988), Robin was always keenly aware of his heritage rich in British Israelite infused evangelical protestanism.
Robin called himself Harbinson as a nom de plume due to his closeness to the Harbinson family whose place backed onto his father’s window cleaning business on the Lisburn Road.
At the North Belfast Mission on York Road John Bryans or ‘Hellfire Jack’ (Blunt’s nickname according to Robin Bryans as reported by Chris Moore) had managed to carve himself a niche as a powerful fire and brimstone style proselytiser by taking his place outside the old Custom House in Belfast every Sunday afternoon and letting rip.
20 – 30 years prior to Robin Bryans’ recollections of growing up knowing his father’s cousin Hellfire Jack as a rising force in Belfast’s Orange Ulster community and a rousing example of evaangelical British Israelism to be reckoned with, a 1908 translation of Geoffrey Keating’s account of the History of Ireland (c. 1570-1644) tracing the lineage of the Irish as a lost tribe of Israel via Scythia had added further fuel to the maturing British-israelite theory and a fervent interest in tracing Irish genealogies, specifically of those who could show they had “colonised Ulster”:
“By the nineteenth century, with the development of British-Israel theory, Ireland came to have a significant role. According to some, the royal house of Ireland could be traced back to King David. One British-Israel writer opined, ‘There is evidence that the tribe of Dan fled by the sea from their captors and colonised Ulster in Ireland and Denmark…’” (Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of the Myth, 2002, p. 43-44)
The Hill of Tara in Northern Ireland is currently being threatened by an extension of the M3 running close by here, possibly requiring some excavations nearby – see http://www.sacred-sites.org for further info on the sacredness of the site and protests about the M3 extension. The last time any digging took place on or near this ancient ceremonial mound in Northern Ireland was during a period of four years at the end of the previous century, 2-3 years before Queen Victoria’s death and slightly into the reign of Edward VII and reading the book review for sounds like a very bizarre episode indeed. Presumably this time around any excavations will involve planning permission as opposed to a lone man wielding a rifle.
In 2002 Tudor Parfitt published his Lost Tribes of Israel: the History of a Myth, more on which here. His theme is that the creation of Israelite and Jewish identities throughout the world, from the Americas to Papua New Guinea, was an innate feature of colonial discourse. At a public lecture at Harvard in 2011, he modified this perspective, suggesting that the creation of such identities was also the result of what he called racialised religious manifestations. These were based on nineteenth-century racial theory.
The frenzy of speculation amongst the British-Israelites (Parfitt gives a figure of 2 million strong in 1900) by the end of the century may have been fuelled by millennial prophecies attached to various interpretations of the myth. By this point in time those British Israelites of the Celtic-Druidic-Hebraic strand are convinced Tara Hill as the pre-Celtic coronation spot of the old Kings of Ireland held the Ark of the Covenant and so they started digging despite protests by WB Yeats, George Moore and interestingly Douglas Hyde (not the author, an Irish scholar of the Irish language who later became the first President of Ireland and a leader of the Gaelic revival in Ireland).
“This book covers a search for the Ark of the Covenant by British-Israelites on the Hill of Tara (1899-1902). A group known as the British-Israelites dug the Hill of Tara in their quest to find the Ark of the Covenant between the years 1899 and 1902. What were their reasons for doing so, and were they successful? And what was the “Great Irish-Hebraic-cryptogramic hieroglyph” and the Freemason connection?
Arthur Griffith campaigned against the British-Israelite explorations and what he saw as the destruction of a national monument (the first of its kind). He protested on Tara in the company of William Butler Yeats, George Moore and Douglas Hyde, despite being ordered off the site by a man wielding a rifle. Maud Gonne made her colourful protest against the explorations by lighting a bonfire on Tara and singing “A nation once again”, much to the consternation of the landlord and the police.
This book describes the story of the British-Israelite excavations on Tara and places them in their archaelogical, historical, cultural and political context.”
Sir, — It is clear that some people have been angered by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement last week concerning the allegations against the late George Bell (News, 26 January). I must confess myself simply confused.
Having looked through the Carlile review, I suppose I had expected the half-apology to the relatives of Bishop Bell for the distress the Church’s investigative failures caused to them. I then expected a grudging acknowledgement that, without casting doubt on “Carol’s” testimony, the presumption of innocence would have to be applied to Bishop Bell unless and until any corroborating evidence came to light.
But no. With admirable clarity, the Archbishop said that he could not “with integrity” clear Bishop Bell’s name, and further, that the substance of “Carol’s” complaint was probably true. Given that the rest of us are not able to review the evidence against Bishop Bell, I think we are obliged to take at face value the Archbishop’s statements, and have reluctantly to conclude that Bishop Bell sexually abused a young girl.
But the Archbishop then goes on to say that this “does not diminish the importance of his [Bell’s] great achievements, and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century”. With respect, I don’t see how these two statements can possibly both be true at the same time. If Bishop Bell sexually abused “Carol” repeatedly over a period of four years, it emphatically does diminish his achievements.
At the very least, the Church of England should suspend forthwith Bishop Bell’s commemoration on 3 October (as the Episcopal Church in the United States has already done) with a view to removing it from the liturgical calendar entirely. It would also seem advisable that Bishop Bell’s name be removed from any church institution or building in order to send the clearest of messages that paedophiles are not to be celebrated. And, if the Archbishop genuinely believes Bell to be an abuser, he should stop describing him as a “hero”, as it is clearly wholly inappropriate.
But it seems unlikely that any of these things will ever happen, because almost no one else who has reviewed the case against Bishop Bell appears to believe him guilty, even on the balance of probabilities. And, indeed, many of them loudly continue to declare him innocent. Meanwhile, the liturgical calendar ticks slowly on and clergy are left wondering “What should we do on 3 October? Whom are we to believe?”
It seems to me that the only possible way to break this unfortunate impasse is for the Church to commission the one thing that Archbishop Welby seems keen, inexplicably, to avoid at all costs: an independent review of the evidence against Bishop Bell which declares authoritatively on his guilt, or otherwise. I am at a loss to understand why this was not included within the remit of the Carlile review, as it would have avoided the current confusion. But we cannot continue to be asked to believe both that Bell was a paedophile and that he continues to be an Anglican hero, as though sexual abuse of a five-year old is no more than an unfortunate character flaw that can be discreetly overlooked in the face of ecclesial achievements. It most definitely is not.
ALAN FRASER 41 Hobhouse Close Great Barr Birmingham B42 1HB
From the Revd Dr Barry Orford
Sir, — Amid the widespread dismay and anger at Archbishop Justin Welby’s statements concerning Bishop George Bell, a disturbing fact must not be overlooked. But for the concerned individuals who banded together to demand justice for Bishop Bell, the official presumption of his guilt would have been generally accepted, and his reputation wrecked at the hands of a now discredited committee for which the Bishop of Chichester must accept final responsibility. This is shocking in itself, and in what it suggests about the Church of England’s approach to questions of truth.
The only acceptable resolution of this miserable affair is for the Archbishop and Bishop to express contrition and declare that no shadow remains over Bishop Bell’s name. Perhaps this might best be done during a service in Chichester Cathedral celebrating the life and achievements of George Bell.
That the claimant in the case was abused as a child is credible. There has been no convincing evidence presented for believing that she was abused by Bishop Bell. Why is it so difficult for Archbishop Welby and Dr Warner to admit this?
BARRY A. ORFORD Flat B, 8 Hampstead Square London NW3 1AB
“The other name mentioned is that of Charles Monk, who was the bishop’s chauffeur, and lived in one of the cottages between the Old Kitchen of the Palace, and the gatehouse into the Palace grounds. His daughter possibly knew Carol; she would have been about the same age. Further, I have been told that, post Chichester, he went to prison for sexual offences, though I have never checked up on this. It might be no more than local gossip” – Noel Osborne
1980’s – 1990’s – Peter Ball offences
1970’s to 2001 – Eric Banks son, Terence, convicted.
Seventy-five years ago on Saturday, the July plot failed. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg placed a bomb in a briefcase next to Hitler in the conference room of the Wolf’s Lair, but someone moved the briefcase a little. When the bomb detonated, the heavy conference table shielded Hitler from the blast. Stauffenberg and many other conspirators were caught. He was executed early the next morning.
This Friday, in Christ Church, Oxford, a special service will commemorate the plot [Stauffenberg’s failed attempt to kill Hitler 75 years ago], and all those who resisted Nazism in Germany. It will centre on the altar dedicated to George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and the main external supporter of German Christian resistance to Hitler.
In Sweden in May 1942, Bell met a young German pastor called Hans Schoünfeld [Schonfeld] and the famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would later be executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp. The former disclosed to him the extent of the resisters’ plot to overthrow Hitler, giving him many of the key names. Charged with this information, Bell went to see Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. Could the Allies help, with assurances that they would negotiate a settlement with a new German state that renounced aggression and embraced Christian principles? Writing to Eden afterwards, Bell asked: ‘If there are men in Germany also ready to wage war against the monstrous tyranny of the Nazis from within, is it right to discourage or ignore them?’ Eden was suspicious that the moves by the churchmen might be untrustworthy ‘peace-feelers’, which Hitler’s spies were bound to know about. Besides, the Allies were edging towards the doctrine of unconditional surrender. Bell’s efforts came to nothing. The July plotters acted without exterior help. They failed, and died horribly.
Controversy about this will never cease. It is easy to sympathise both with the pleading of the Bishop and with the scepticism of the foreign secretary. But one has to be impressed by Bell’s striking way of putting it: ‘Germany was the first country in Europe to be occupied by the Nazis’, and so its people needed liberation as much as any other. At the service will be read out the words of Helmuth James von Moltke, a resister to the Nazis who opposed the assassination of Hitler on the grounds that this would make him a martyr, but was executed for treason all the same. In his farewell letter to his wife, von Moltke wrote: ‘In the last analysis, the dramatic thing about the trial was this … what we had discussed were questions of the practical-ethical demands of Christianity. Nothing more; it is for this, and this alone, that we have been condemned …Your husband … stood … not as a Protestant, not as a landed proprietor, not as a nobleman, not as a Prussian, not as a German — but as a Christian and as nothing else…’
Faithful readers will know that this column has defended Bishop Bell from a charge of child abuse which the Church of England chose to accept as true 70 years after the alleged acts. A full inquiry by Lord Carlile proved that the processes used to investigate this claim had been worthless. The Church was forced to accept this. It refused, however, to pursue the logic of Carlile’s finding and declare Bell innocent until proved guilty. The Archbishop of Canterbury stated that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bell; but the cloud is not evidenced. By chance, I was in Chichester for a family gathering last weekend. We stayed at 4 Canon Lane, a guesthouse which was, until the accusation, called George Bell House. His name was then painted out. I was sorely tempted to paint it back again, but realised this would upset the blameless staff, so contented myself with expressing my thoughts in the visitors’ book. I also reminded myself of the geography of the Bishop’s Palace. ‘Carol’, Bell’s accuser, alleged that Bell would collect her from his kitchen and take her upstairs to his study, where he abused her. In fact, the kitchen she mentioned belonged to the theological college next door, and Bell had no access. His study was elsewhere.
On the crenellations which surround the cathedral’s impressive Victorian spire, we spotted three peregrines looking dramatic against the evening sun. The return of birds of prey is an attractive feature of modern times. The downside is that more raptors means fewer songbirds.
Ms Scolding QC asks Archbishop Sentamu whether believes he has made a personal mistake in the course of responding to disclosures of clerical abuse during his career.
“Hand on heart, I don’t think so.”
“He’s arrogant, he’s rude, and he’s a bully” – Revd Matthew Ineson of Archbishop Welby’s fellow Archbishop John Sentamu [IICSA – 10/07/2019] – “Now that’s what I call a ‘significant cloud'” ~ Richard W. Symonds
MS SHARPLING: Thank you, Archbishop Sentamu. Could you
10 just clarify something for me: we heard evidence from
11 Mr Ineson today, and if the church accept that he was
12 abused as a young lad whilst under the care of
13 the church, is there now any impediment for an apology
14 to be given for that abuse? Leaving aside anything that
15 might have happened subsequently, is there any
16 impediment in the collective church mind that prevents
17 an apology to Mr Ineson for that original abuse?
18 A. I think the real problem comes because the evidence is
20 MS SHARPLING: I see.
21 A. And the review hasn’t happened. And I’m hoping that
22 that review will be swift and quick. It’s still,
23 I think, waiting on Mr Ineson agreeing the terms of
24 reference for this particular review. So hopefully, it
25 will be swift. I hope it will happen. I actually think that, I mean, it is a very difficult one, because you do not want to either be flippant about what kind of apology [‘confetti apologies’] you are giving. For it to be substantive, actually, you have got to get all the facts out, and the review should take place, I hope as soon as possible, because on one CDM my understanding is that the evidence was completely contested”
Q. And to ask you whether you had any contact with the 17 Archbishop John Sentamu — 18 A. I did. 19 Q. — at that event? 20 A. I did. I’d never seen John Sentamu before and, if 21 I never see him again, it will be too soon, in my 22 opinion. It was a fringe meeting arranged so that 23 General Synod members could meet with victims of abuse. 24 And there were many victims — 40, I don’t know the 25 exact number, but there were many, and members of the Page 55 1 problems himself”. I said, “You were disclosed to five 2 years ago. You did nothing. So, go on, say you’re 3 sorry”. And he answered, “Apologies mean different 4 things to different people”. And then he said to me, 5 and I didn’t get this, “There is a boulder between you 6 and I”. He said, “You have put a boulder between you 7 and I”. And I said to him, “The only thing in front of 8 you, Mr Sentamu, is the possibility you will now have to 9 answer for your actions and you don’t like being 10 answerable to anybody”. And his answer was, “One day, 11 we will talk”, and he took his hand off my shoulder and 12 walked away. 13 I went outside and I saw a lady from the NST — I’m 14 sure it’s Heather, but I’m — I told her what happened, 15 “I’ll make you a cup of tea. Are you all right?” When 16 I look back now, you do not, whoever you are, walk in 17 a room full of victims of abuse and physically get hold 18 of them and challenge them. But it’s who he thinks he 19 is. He’s arrogant. He’s rude. He’s a bully. 20 Q. This, I understand that you’re talking about happened at 21 the fringe event at General Synod last year? 22 A. It did. 23 Q. I understand that you were part of the event together 24 with Sheila Fish, from — 25 A. Yes. Page 54 1 General Synod, and Justin Welby and John Sentamu were 2 there. At the end of the meeting, people milling about, 3 John Sentamu came over to me. The whole meeting, 4 I could feel his eyes in the back of my head — do you 5 know what I mean? But he came up to me, and he came 6 really in my face, too close, and he grabbed me by the 7 shoulder and he held me by the shoulder, and he said to 8 me, “One day, you and I will talk”. So I said, “Well, 9 I only live half an hour away. You put the kettle on, 10 I’ll come over and we’ll talk”. And the look was, “Who 11 do you think you’re speaking to?”. And then he said, 12 “One day we will pray together”. And I said, “That will 13 never happen, but I will talk to you”. And he said to 14 me — and he was holding me the whole time, and he said, 15 “What do you want? What do you want?” I said, “I want 16 you to apologise and I want Steven Croft and all the 17 others to apologise”. I said, “You ignored my 18 disclosure of abuse. You left my abuser five years to 19 potentially abuse again”. 20 As part of the police investigations, they 21 discovered that Trevor Devanamanikkam was looking for 22 rent boys online. 23 I said, “And then he’s charged with very serious 24 charges against me. He then climbs in a bath and stabs 25 himself to death and then it’s discovered that he had Page 56 1 Q. — whom we have already heard, from SCIE? 2 A. Yes. 3 Q. One of the things that she said — chair, you might 4 remember — was that the victims and survivors had 5 spoken to her about the change and the practical changes 6 they would like in the church and that, largely, she had 7 considered those to be practical, sensible changes. So 8 my final question for you is, building on that, what 9 practical recommendations or changes do you think would 10 help the church to respond better to allegations of 11 child sexual abuse? 12 A. I have no desire to damage the church at all or bring 13 the church down. That’s not my thing. The overriding 14 motive for me is to help prevent that abuse happens 15 again, and I think there are people in position in the 16 church who shouldn’t be there who have repeatedly made 17 mistakes, shall we say, if we’re kind, about 18 safeguarding. 19 I think safeguarding should be totally out of 20 the hands of the Church of England. 21 Q. So managed outside of the church? 22 A. Totally. You can’t do your own work. You can’t 23 investigate yourself. There’s too much bias there. 24 There’s too much conflict of interest. 25 I also believe, personally, in mandatory reporting IICSA Inquiry – Anglican Church Investigation 10 July 2019 (+44)207 4041400 email@example.com London EC4A 1JS Epiq Europe Ltd http://www.epiqglobal.com Lower Ground 20 Furnival Street 15 (Pages 57 to 60) Page 57 1 because I — the church don’t seem to really, in their 2 heart, want to do that. They talk about it, but they 3 don’t do it. I can’t understand, if you discover that 4 abuse is possibly happening, or you receive 5 a disclosure, you pick the phone up to the police. It’s 6 as simple as that. It doesn’t have to go through all 7 the different layers of the Church of England, and if 8 I thought a little girl or boy was being abused, I would 9 pick the phone up to the police then, and that is 10 mandatory reporting, as far as I see. I’m simple. 11 Simple thinking. 12 Q. No, not at all. That concludes the questions I have for 13 you, unless we have missed something very key that you 14 wanted to raise that might assist the chair and panel in 15 their conclusions and recommendations? 16 A. No, there is just one thing I would say. There’s 17 a couple of things. You were talking before about 18 apology, why would I want apology. 19 Q. Yes. 20 A. Firstly, it is recognition. It is recognition of what 21 happened and it is recognition of the way that I have 22 been tret. I was told, in July 2017, by Graham Tilby 23 that I would — had I had an apology? I said “No”. He 24 said, “I can sort that out for you”. That was two years 25 ago. I have never had it. Page 59 1 I have even in the church been called “a common 2 northerner” before now, at a safeguarding thing. I want 3 to say — I really want to say thank you to David 4 because I wouldn’t be here without David, and to people 5 like Richard who represent victims of abuse. Without 6 that support, I would still be not knowing what to do. 7 I also want to thank my MP, who is here today. 8 Yeah. Her staff and her get it, and she has been 9 totally, totally supportive, and I understand she’s 10 written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and asked on 11 more than one occasion to meet with him to discuss my 12 case. A letter of 17 January 2018 has still not had 13 a formal response. Over a year. 14 I want to say thank you to the many victims, and 15 I’ve met many now, who really are courageous people. 16 Some of them are here today, a lot of them will be 17 watching. I don’t actually even want to be here today. 18 This is something I never in my life wanted to do. But 19 I am. But the truth is, none of us ever asked for it to 20 happen, the abuse to happen, and the re-abuse, and 21 I want to say thank you to this inquiry for all you’re 22 doing, and I just hope that — I believe the church will 23 nod at the end of this and say, “Thank you very much. 24 We will take note”, and they will just revert to form. 25 They are not going to change unless they are made to. Page 58 1 Moira Murray told me that I would get a formal 2 apology from the church when the legal case against 3 Trevor Devanamanikkam was over. That was two years ago 4 since he died, and I have never had an apology. 5 I was then told by Moira I would get a formal 6 apology when the civil case was settled. That was 7 a year next month. I have never had a formal apology. 8 Justin Welby was interviewed by a journalist student 9 in Canterbury and the first question was, “Why hasn’t 10 Matthew had an apology?” He promised to chase that up. 11 That was last year, I think. I have never had the 12 apology. 13 I have never had a formal apology at all, but 14 I think there’s an obvious reason for that: because they 15 would have to admit the bishops’ failings if they 16 apologised for it. I have never even had a formal 17 apology for the abuse from Trevor Devanamanikkam — the 18 abuse by Trevor Devanamanikkam. 19 Can I just finally say a scenario I want to share 20 with you: I am a Yorkshireman, as you’ve probably 21 gathered. David Greenwood always says, “You’re straight 22 talking”, that’s how it comes. I don’t think the church 23 can cope with that. That’s been my experience. They 24 want to go around the houses and through the layers and 25 do all that. Straight talking, they can’t cope with. Page 60 1 They can’t be trusted. 2 And I say that as a clergyman. I am still a priest 3 of the Church of England and I don’t believe the 4 hierarchy can be trusted. Justin Welby sat in this very 5 room a few weeks ago, with tears in his eyes, and said 6 he’d learned to become ashamed of the church. I do not 7 understand why that is the case, because the vast 8 majority of the Church of England, clergy and lay, would 9 never abuse anybody, and would report it, and they would 10 be horrified by the abuse. It isn’t the vast majority. 11 It is a small amount of people. And then it’s the 12 re-abuse by the bishops and the archbishops themselves, 13 and I think, if any shame wants applying, it needs to be 14 applied to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the 15 Archbishop of York and the House of Bishops, and not all 16 the bishops, but the vast majority of them. What 17 they’re — and the NST and William Nye and all that lot 18 at Church House. I think they are cruel, and that’s the 19 word. 20 What would Jesus do in this situation? He wouldn’t 21 do what they’re doing. And I just think this comes down 22 to — it’s the old story: abuse is about power. 23 Devanamanikkam’s power over me, he used. John Smyth did 24 the same over his victims. Peter Ball. All of them. 25 That abuse of power is used again, and again, and again IICSA Inquiry – Anglican Church Investigation 10 July 2019 (+44)207 4041400 firstname.lastname@example.org London EC4A 1JS Epiq Europe Ltd http://www.epiqglobal.com Lower Ground 20 Furnival Street 16 (Pages 61 to 64) Page 61 1 by the bishops of the Church of England without — they 2 ignore disclosures. They leave the abuser to carry on. 3 Then, when you complain about those bishops, the 4 Archbishop of Canterbury just takes no further action, 5 no further action, no further action. It’s a complete 6 cycle. That’s what the problem with the Clergy 7 Discipline Measure is, because they’re investigating 8 themselves, and it destroys people. It really does. 9 And why? Because bishops sit on thrones. They live 10 in fine houses and palaces, they wear the finest robes 11 and garments, which cost the earth. I know, because 12 I’ve sat I sell ’em them?in them. They bully people. 13 Yeah? People literally kneel down and kiss the ring on 14 their finger. Who would give that up? They don’t want 15 to, and that’s why they’re protecting themselves. It 16 really does drive people to distraction. And I say no 17 more. I really say no more. Enough is enough. And 18 I think the victims are far tougher and stronger people 19 than the archbishops and the bishops of 20 the Church of England, and, as a priest, I can tell 21 you — and I say this as a priest — I cannot see the 22 face of Jesus in the Archbishops of Canterbury or York. 23 I see hypocrites and I see Pharisees, the people who 24 Jesus stood up against. 25 I’m sorry to be so direct. I’m a Yorkshireman. But Page 63 1 any reason. Just raise your hand or indicate to me that 2 you wish to do so. Next, there are two bundles in front 3 of you which have the vast majority of the relevant 4 documents I am going to take you to, but exhibits will 5 also be got up on screen. If, like me, you find reading 6 things difficult unless it is in slightly larger font, 7 please do indicate and we can blow the font up as large 8 as you need it. 9 We have two witness statements from you, Mr Iles: 10 one dated 9 November 2017, which has already been 11 published on this investigation’s website; and one dated 12 1 May 2019 at ACE026967. Chair and panel, behind tab A1 13 of your bundle. 14 Now, I’m not going to — I am going to assume that 15 you signed both of those witness statements, your 16 signature, however, being subject to a cover. Did you 17 sign both of those witness statements? 18 A. Yes. 19 Q. Have you had an opportunity to read them recently? 20 A. Yes. 21 Q. Are the matters set out there true, to the best of your 22 knowledge and belief? 23 A. Yes. 24 Q. Mr Iles, just to identify, you are a barrister employed 25 by the Church of England legal office since 2004, and Page 62 1 I don’t think these people are fit for office. Thank 2 you. I’m sorry I have gone on. 3 MS McNEILL: No, no, thank you, Mr Ineson. Chair, do you or 4 the panel have any questions for this witness?
IICSA Transcript – 10/07/2019 – Revd Matthew Ineson & Archbishop John Sentamu
“If we can’t admit to being wrong or making a mistake, we can’t genuinely say sorry or apologise because we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong. That moral denial of human fallibility will breed an arrogance which most people see but to which the arrogant person is blind” ~ Richard W. Symonds
~ Richard W. Symonds – on reading Archbishop John Sentamu’s answer when Fiona Scolding QC asks him [at the IICSA 10/07/2019] whether he believes he has made a personal mistake, in the course of responding to disclosures of clerical abuse, during his career: “Hand on heart, I don’t think so”, the Archbishop replies.
“He’s arrogant, he’s rude, and he’s a bully” – Revd Matthew Ineson of Archbishop Welby’s fellow Archbishop John Sentamu [IICSA – 10/07/2019]
“Now that’s what I call a ‘significant cloud’. Apologise or resign” ~ Richard W. Symonds
IICSA – July 11 2019 –
Fiona Scolding QC: “Do you think the Church needs to be more willing to admit past mistakes?”
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury: “The history of the Church does not encourage accountability…Accountability is structural [aka ‘The System’]
Fiona Scolding QC [in questioning Graham Tilby]: “The issue here surrounds the fact that, with the greatest respect to diocesan bishops, they have all the power and no accountability”
Q. Once Mr Galloway had reported, I think the decision was made that the decision as to whether or not the allegation was substantiated or not should be made by somebody independent of the core group?
“So I understand you commissioned an analysis, shall we say, of whether or not, on the balance of probabilities, this complaint was met or not from a Mr Briden, who is a senior ecclesiastical lawyer. His case — his report is ACE026752, B81. There’s a summary of his report atparagraph 348 of your witness statement, but, essentially, what he identifies is that there is no realistic prospect of bringing a claim, and describes the evidence as unfounded”
Q. But as part of that process, as I understand it, both Bishop Bell’s family were represented by Desmond Browne QC
A. That’s right.
Q. — acting on a pro bono basis?
Q. And Alison was represented by Mr Chapman [ @Switalskis ?] as I understand it
A. Yes, indeed.
Q. — who is sitting in this room here today?
Q. And they made various submissions, because we have got various orders that were made in the case?
Archbishop Justin Welby – IICSA – July 11 2019
“We have got to learn to put actions behind the words, because ‘Sorry’ is pretty cheap”
MR CHAPMAN: Chair and panel, we act for ten victims of Anglican clerical sexual abuse and the survivors support group, MACSAS. May I deal with one matter immediately, which is Archbishop Welby’s letter produced yesterday in which he purported to apologise to Mr Ineson in 2017. That letter was provided to the inquiry yesterday, and to us only a few minutes before you came in at 2.00 pm. So Mr Ineson has not had an opportunity to formally respond to it. But the archbishop relied on that letter as suggesting that he gave an apology in 2017, and the words he relied upon were in the final paragraph, and I read:
“… deeply sorry, yes, for the abuse, from your description of how this has been dealt with by the church.”
Mr Ineson roundly rejects that as an apology for how he has been treated in the church. It is mealy-mouthed. It does not frankly accept that the church treated him badly in the words of Bishop Hancock, “shabbily and shambolic”. Yesterday was an opportunity for the archbishop to say before Mr Ineson in public, “I accept and I apologise for the way you were treated in that shabby and shambolic manner and for my part in it”. That was not just a discourtesy to Mr Ineson; it shows that the archbishop, in his own words, still doesn’t get it.
Mr O’Donnell [Slater & Gordon] – “Bishop Selby’s answers to Mr Frank [IICSA] indicated that the Anglican Church might just be trying to run down the clock, might be making all the right noises whilst this Inquiry is ongoing, and then getting back to business as usual once these hearings are finished”
Mr James Berry [Counsel for the National Police Chiefs Council] on sexual abuse of children:
“This most heinous form of offending and gross abuse of truth or power (and faith)…Whatever label is applied to this, be it deference, or clericalism, or exceptionalism, or spurious credibility, it should be and must be a thing of the past” ~
A.1 = John Titchener [Group Compliance Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance]
A.2 = David Bonehill [UK Claims Director for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Group]
Q. – Do you think that as the victim, should have had to wait or fight as long as he has in order for this to be clarified on the record?
A.1 – No
Q. – Ms McNeill reads from the guiding principles of Ecclesiastical, focusing on the fact that treatment of survivors should not be negative or worsen their well being. She asks, in their handling of the A4 issue, does he consider Ecclesiastical to have lived up to these principles?
A.1 – The witness acknowledges that they have not.
Mr. Rory Philips QC [Counsel for the Ecclesiastical Insurance Office – EIO]
“Where the Inquiry has not sought a specific answer to criticisms made, then as a matter of basic fairness, it is not possible for you to arrive at a conclusion as to whether these criticisms are well founded….
“Because that would offend the guiding principle if I can use that phrase again, which must inform all of the work of this, as of any inquiry, namely fairness….
“EIO is an insurer. It is a commercial organisation. And perhaps some of the difficulties for claimants here arise because they expect EIO to behave towards them rather more as if it was the church”
Today, the final Friday, was originally intended to be used only for closing statements from the lawyers representing the various parties. However, it was announced at the end of Thursday that an additional witness would be called first on Friday morning. This turned out to be David Bonehill, Claims Director of EIG and and John Titchener, Group Compliance Director of EIO.
“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”
“The truths about Matt’s ‘shabby and shambolic’ treatment by the church after his original assault thirty + years ago will probably never be completely known. What we have seen is at best incompetent treatment but at worst dangerously cruel”
The words of Revd Graham Sawyer are not to be forgotten – said at the IICSA Inquiry last year – July 2018:
“The sex abuse that was perpetrated upon me by Peter Ball pales into insignificance when compared to the entirely cruel and sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by officials, both lay and ordained. I know from the testimony of other people who have got in touch with me over the last five or 10 years that what I have experienced is not dissimilar to the experience of so many others and I use these words cruel and sadistic because I think that is how they behave. It is an ecclesiastical protection racket and [the attitude is that] anyone who seeks to in any way threaten the reputation of the church as an institution has to be destroyed”
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.