Jan 24 2019 – “Archbishop admits Bishop Bell investigation has been ‘very painful process’, ahead of report into case” – The Daily Telegraph – Hayley Dixon
The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that investigating abuse allegations made against Bishop George Bell has been a “very, very painful process” as the church prepares to publish its findings in the case.
Ahead of what it is hoped will be the end to a long and bitter battle between the Church of England and the family and supporters of one of its most revered bishops, Justin Welby said that the tackling of sex abuse cases has been the churches “greatest failure” since the second world war.
The Archbishop has personally been accused of attempting to smear the former Bishop of Chichester’s name by accusing him of being a paedophile when there was “no credible evidence” against him.
An independent review of the handling of the case by Lord Carlile, which was released in 2017, found that Bishop Bell had been besmirched by the church two years earlier when officials released a statement formally apologising over allegations of abuse made by a woman who is now in her seventies.
On Thursday the church will release the findings of their National Safeguarding Team into “fresh information” which came to light after review was published.
The Archbishop has written to Bishop Bell’s surviving relative ahead of the release of the report, the Telegraph understands.
Sussex Police dropped an investigation into the “fresh information” in March last year, three months after it came to light.
The findings of the review have remained a closely guarded secret, but supporters have said that they are hopeful that it will restore the good name of Bishop Bell, who died in 1958.
Talking about the case to the Spectator ahead of the publication of the report, the Archbishop said: “It has been a very, very painful process. Not least because Bishop Bell was — is — one of my great heroes. Probably the greatest failure of the C of E since the second world war has been our failure to deal adequately with disclosures of abuse. When I came into this role, I didn’t have any idea how bad it was.”
He admitted that “we have not found a way of caring for those who have been accused or complained against — or their families.”
Frank Field, the Labour MP who has been part of the fight to clear the bishop’s name, said: “I hope that the report brings the whole sorry affair to a good-ish end.
“I would hope that they have now decided it is totally proper to restore the man’s great name and I would hope that a statement from the Archbishop will be followed by the reversal of a series of other changes which were made on the basis that the allegations could be true.”
In the wake of the church naming Bishop Bell as an abuser a school in Chichester and rooms in the cathedral were among the places to be stripped of his name.
A statue celebrating his work in helping rescue Jewish children from Germany during the Second World War which has been planned for Canterbury Cathedral was also scrapped.
[Original submission – before editing]
It is also our duty to prioritise those falsely accused of sex abuse [“Why it is all our duty to prioritise child safety”, Telegraph, Feb 20).
In 2009, football manager Dave Jones wrote a book about his experience – “No Smoke, No Fire” * – which led Judge David Clarke to conclude after the court case:
“No doubt there will be people who are going to think there is no smoke without fire. I can do nothing about that except to say such an attitude would be wrong”
In 2015, Bishop George Bell was falsely accused of sex abuse, which led the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to monstrously conclude last month that a “significant cloud” still hangs over this long-dead, venerated Bishop of Chichester – even after a report by Lord Carlile QC.
The words of Judge David Clarke should haunt the present Archbishop.
Richard W. Symonds
2 Lychgate Cottages
Ifield Street, Ifield Village
Crawley, West Sussex
Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only – Very deaf)
The Church of England has been accused of disclosing evidence of a fresh allegation against Bishop George Bell in order to preserve the Archbishop of Canterbury from embarrassment at Synod.
The Church announced it had received “fresh information” about alleged sexual abuse by the highly-respected bishop, who died more than 70 years ago, on Wednesday, just over a week before the issue was due to be debated at a meeting of the Church of England’s governing body.
Synod members who had planned to propose a motion aimed at beginning the process of rehabilitating Bell’s reputation have decided to shelve it as a result.
The motion, which is currently being assessed by Church of England lawyers, would not have been discussed at this month’s meeting but would have been added to the agenda for later meetings had it received enough support.
But its proposer David Lamming, a lay member from the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich said he had decided to “put it on ice” following the disclosure of the new allegation.
Motions must receive 100 signatures in order to be added to the potential agenda for future events.
Mr Lamming told the Daily Telegraph: “I don’t think I can ask Synod to sign something that they are uncomfortable with in the light of this recent development.”
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson, the daughter of Bishop Bell’s friend Franz Hildebrandt, said the development made her “question [Welby’s] leadership”.
“I’m quite sure it was to distract attention away from the pressure that was building on Justin Welby to apologise for his earlier statement,” she said.
“An Archbishop has to be able to take a bit of embarrassment, he has got to be able to say that he’s got it wrong.”
Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer, said: “People will assume that there is some manipulation at work in all this, and whether that is true or not I don’t know.
“In the intensely political context in which all of this has emerged, it’s natural for people to have these suspicions, but it’s the Church that has created this context.”
In a statement released on Wednesday, Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said the announcement was made “in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday”.
One of the beauties of sport is that it populates its landscape with young people dreaming of making it into the big time. Among its darkest aspects is the violation of those dreams by predators who see aspiration as a vulnerability they can exploit.
From the depravity of Barry Bennell right down to the spiv who tries to get rich on the back of a child’s talent, young people are in need of protection by families, institutions, vigilant individuals and of course the rule of law, which has caught up with Bennell – jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers between 1979 and 1991.
Those protective structures failed abysmally for a generation of children who were defenceless against Bennell’s brazen and routine sex crimes, which, as the court heard, occurred on an “industrial scale.” As we know from the Jimmy Savile case and others, this level of sexual criminality is not possible unless those with the power to stop it are blinded by the perpetrator or place their own self-interest first.
In this case, parts of the Football Association, Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra – in that period – refused or failed to see Bennell’s interest in scouting and coaching was incidental to his main reason for working in football. His chief purpose was to gain access to children. He played a double game to satisfy his appetites, conning the clubs into thinking he was a talent-spotter par excellence and the children and their families into believing he held the key to a future in the game.
The NSPCC’s statement after sentencing pointed out that Bennell “ruthlessly preyed on the hopes and aspirations of young footballers who believed he held the key to their dreams”.
Procedures are much tighter in football now. Awareness has improved exponentially since the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Yet, as the many recent welfare-in-sport scandals have demonstrated, there is still a phase in which young people are vulnerable if they have not attained full adulthood or the power that comes with success.
That stage of life, where children are most open to being exploited, is the one that requires the most careful policing, because sex offenders are drawn to professions in which they have access to, and can exploit the ambitions of, young people. Thus it falls not only to governing bodies but also coaches, parents – all of us, in fact – to recognise the danger signs and intervene, as opposed to merely muttering our concerns.
From Bennell’s perspective, reptilian deceit was effective. One member of City’s staff called him “the star-maker”. Concerns raised by Len Davies at City and Hamilton Smith at Crewe gained no real traction. Now, a further 86 alleged victims have reportedly come forward, which accentuates one of the truly shocking features of this tragedy: the impunity with which Bennell abused children, and the breadth of his crimes, in homes, holiday camps, football clubs and even on the pitch at Maine Road.
Only the victims who came forward to testify can know how long the “relief” will last. And relief was certainly the most conspicuous first response. No quest for justice – even one so obviously grounded in fact – guarantees the kind of outcome that exposed Bennell’s sadism and perversion.
The first emotion, one assumes, is one of vindication. The lie has been broken. An expectation now, however, is that thoughts will turn quickly to those who excused Bennell’s paedophilia, looked the other way, or facilitated it in ways that require them to be held to account.
Lord Carlile, one of the country’s leading legal figures, has said Bennell’s behaviour was “brushed under the carpet” by Crewe.
These failures, where they existed, cannot be marked down as unfortunate accidents. The victims are entitled to justice from football as well as the legal system. The FA bear a responsibility in their forthcoming report to show that negligence and complicity have consequences, not least for the FA of that time.
The societal nature of this crime was grimly apparent when a “Cambridge-educated” geophysicist from a “privileged” background, Matthew Falder, was jailed for 32 years at Birmingham Crown Court after admitting 137 offences including blackmail, voyeurism, encouraging child rape and sharing indecent images – on the same day Bennell began his latest prison sentence.
Football is not uniquely blighted by child sex abuse, and its safeguards now are better. But in all cases it needs to think first of child protection, of child welfare, and punish those who have failed in that duty.