Sir – I think I may be able to enlighten Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson (Letters, March 24) who writes about the case of Bishop Bell, as to the Church of England’s thinking on safeguarding.
At a recent parochial church council meeting in the Chichester diocese, a parish safeguarding officer gave a briefing on the introduction of a programme being trialled in the diocese. Bishop Bell and others were mentioned, along with the stance taken by Archbishop Justin Welby.
The meeting was told that a change of mindset is needed. The old idea that one is “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply when dealing with a safeguarding complaint; the view has to be that there is a case to answer, and the defendant must prove his innocence.
Clearly Lord Carlile was operating under the old rules and Bishop Bell can never comply with the new rules.
In this way, church leaders are able to accept almost all of Lord Carlile’s report but still maintain there is a shadow over Bishop Bell.
Storrington, West Sussex
“Bishop Bell’s memory”
Sir – Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson’s letter (March 24) puts the case for the late Bishop George Bell very well.
Those of us who live in the Diocese of Chichester suffer a further frustration. Within days of the Church’s original finding being published, orders were given to remove almost all memorabilia to George Bell. In places where this was not possible, such as in the south aisle of the cathedral, a notice was displayed for many months referring to being a cloud over George Bell’s name.
At the same time, a building in Canon Lane that had been refurbished with nearly £1 million pounds of funds and named “George Bell House” was renamed “4 Canon Lane”.
Dr Hildebrandt Grayson asks how long we shall have to wait for the Archbishop to have the grace to admit that the Church made “the most colossal error of judgement”.
We in Chichester are asking how long before we can see the restoration of his name, and particularly of George Bell House.
Chichester, West Sussex
Case for Bishop Bell
Sir – The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, is not alone in being ashamed of the Church in its handling of child abuse cases in the Diocese of Chichester (report, March 22). So are quite a few others. And some of us would add that we are ashamed of Archbishop Welby too.
At the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse hearing on Wednesday, the Archbishop was questioned about his continuing attack on the late Bishop George Bell, whose reputation has been besmirched by what Lord Carlile, the Church’s own eminent appointee to examine its legal processes, has described as a very misguided rush to judgement on a single accusation of historic child sexual abuse.
The continued anger that the case has aroused has nothing to do with Bishop Bell’s eminent reputation. It has everything to do with the fact that no one has ever been allowed to present a case in his defence.
The recent effort by the family to appoint its own lawyer in a new investigation has been turned down by the Chichester authorities. And once again, the Archbishop missed a chance to affirm his belief in Bishop Bell’s innocence as presumed by the law.
When will the Archbishop have the grace to admit that the Church leaders responsible for handling the George Bell case – including himself – have made the most colossal error of judgement in this instance?
Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
March 22 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 21
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]
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?
Archbishop Justin Welby
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.
March 22 2018 – From The Archives [1988 – “Rumpole of the Bailey” with Leo McKern – Episode: ‘Rumpole and the Age of Miracles’ [Series 5 Disc 2) – Filmed on location at Chichester Cathedral [‘The Diocese of Lawnchester’ – Ecclesiastical Court]
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”
‘Wilful blindness’ existed towards Church child abuse in Sussex, inquiry hears
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is taking place in London
MICHAEL DRUMMOND Email Published: 17:21 Monday 05 March 2018
A damning image of ‘wilful blindness’ in historic cases of sexual abuse of children who were ‘terrified and silenced’ by clergy in Sussex has been set out at a public inquiry. Fiona Scolding QC, lead counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), said abuse that left an ‘indelible scar’ on children was often ignored or forgiven.
In one segment, Miss Scolding described abuse by a Reverend Colin Pritchard: “There have been suggestions about the culture of abuse operated by Reverend Pritchard and that Bishop Peter Ball turned a blind eye to that abuse.” Reverend Pritchard, who was vicar of St Barnabas in Bexhill, pleaded guilty in 2008 to seven counts of sexual assault on two boys and was jailed for five years.
Speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester and Archbishops’ Council for the Church of England, Nigel Giffin QC said the Church’s response to abuse in the last few decades was ‘not nearly good enough’. The IICSA inquiry in London will look into how far institutions failed to protect children from sexual abuse within the Anglican Church. It focusses on abuse within the Diocese of Chichester, which covers all of Sussex, as a case study.
Lead counsel for the inquiry Fiona Scolding QC Members of the public heard about dozens of offences in Sussex over the last 50 years. Miss Scolding said: “As a society we have ocer the past 10 years had to examine some uncomfortable truths about our wilful blindness to such abuse.”
She noted the convictions for sex offences of Michael Walsh, Terence Banks and David Bowring, who were associated with Chichester Cathedral and local schooling. Miss Scolding also told the inquiry how Reverend Roy Cotton, who was convicted in 1952 of gross indecency with a child, was at one point an ‘alleged abuser hiding in plain sight’.
Richard Scorer spoke on behalf of many of the victims
She added: “Despite his conviction the Bishop of Portsmouth considered him suitable for ordination as a man of ‘considerable ability’ free of any trouble for 12 years. “Because of his criminal record the then Bishop of Portsmouth ensured he did not have to undertake the usual recruitment processes.”
The handling by the Church of allegations made against Chichester’s Bishop George Bell will be discussed later in the inquiry, but not the truth of them or otherwise.
Richard Scorer, speaking on behalf of many of the victims, said: “If you want to abuse children there is no more effective way of terrifying and silencing your victims than to claim to have God on your side.
The inquiry will look into how abuse by people associated with Chichester Cathedral was dealt with
“The Church of England claims to offer moral guidance to the country yet clerical sexual abuse cases powerfully undermine the claim. This leads to the cover-up of abuse.
“The question is whether the Church of England can be trusted to put its own house in order.”
In a statement read out this afternoon, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: “The failures that we have seen are deeply shaming and I personally find them a cause of horror and sadness. “That children have been abused within the communities of the church is indeed shameful.” The inquiry continues.