“Was this not the process that created the Bishop George Bell debacle? The Church of England leadership will still not follow the plain and increasingly irritated advice of its independent investigator Lord Carlile, who said: “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….
“If witnesses accounts and denials of knowledge (if appropriate) are not captured in a timely way, may not their reputations be placed “under a cloud” of complicity in the cover-up by some future archbishop without evidence, just as Justin Welby has tainted the memory of Bishop George Bell? Justice requires due process to victims and those under suspicion alike. We are woefully failing many in this case”
“The church in trying to preserve its reputation has all but lost it. Kicking allegations ‘into the long grass’ and then throwing long dead Bishops ‘under the bus’ has all added to the loss of credibility of the church and its hierarchy…“
New allegations of sexual abuse against Bishop George Bell cannot be proven on the balance of probabilities, a new report from the Church has concluded. Current Bishop of Chichester Dr Martin Warner issued an apology and said that the 70 years since Bishop Bell’s death have ‘defeated the quest for certainty’. Chichester Cathedral The report by Timothy Briden was conducted at the request of Bishop Warner and examined allegations of misconduct against the late Bishop Bell.
However the Church-sponsored inquiry did not include the original allegations made by a woman known as Carol. Highlighted in the report was a claim by a woman known as Alison that Bishop Bell abused her and told her: “This is our secret.” She recalled feeling uncomfortable afterwards and being told that it would be ‘impossible to have the bishop up’ because nobody would believe her.
Mr Briden concluded that her account was ‘not proved on the balance of probabilities’ and said her account was unreliable. Witness evidence from as many as 12 witnesses were examined in the new report. Bishop of Chichester Dr Martin Warner said: “We recognise how damaging and painful this has been. “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited.
PHOTOGRAPH: Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner “There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved.”
The report can be read in full on the Church of England’s website. Any allegations relating to a woman known as Carol were excluded from the report and were not discussed.
Bishop Warner said: “The judgement from Tim Briden on the new information about Bishop George Bell which came to light at the end of 2017 brings to an end a lengthy examination that has drawn on the recommendations by Lord Alex Carlile in his report on the Church of England’s handling of this matter from the outset.
“The diocese of Chichester has rightly been called to account for its safeguarding failures of the past – shocking and shaming as they were.
“We hope that the culture of the diocese has changed. We believe that it has been essential to demonstrate a capacity to respond appropriately to any allegation of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, no matter how senior, or by any person who holds office in the church. We remain committed to this.
“The Carlile report, and this subsequent investigation, have however shown how much we have had to learn about dealing with cases from the distant past.
“In particular, we have learned that the boundaries of doubt and certainty have to be stated with great care, that the dead and those who are related to them have a right to be represented, and that there must be a balanced assessment of the extent to which it would be in the public interest to announce the details of any allegation.
“We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it.
“For the future, we recognise how damaging and painful this has been. We have all been diminished by this case. The legitimate quest for certainty has been defeated by the nature of the case and the passage of time.
“Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved. We ask those who hold opposing views on this matter to recognize the strength of each other’s commitment to justice and compassion.
“Moreover, we continue to believe that the good things that George Bell did in his life will stand the test of time.
“His prophetic work for peace and his relationship with Dietrich Bonhoeffer are only two of the many ways in which his legacy will go on being of great significance to us in the Church and we hope and pray we can go on learning from what he has given to us.”
Tory war with Met police over ‘thousands of pornographic images on computer of Damian Green
Damian Green and Scotland Yard faced questions today after a retired detective claimed he found “thousands” of pornographic images on the Cabinet minister’s computer.
The allegation heaped further pressure on Theresa May’s embattled deputy. However, it also left Scotland Yard in the spotlight about its handling of personal data obtained in investigations.
Lord Carlile, the former watchdog over anti-terror laws, called on Met chief Cressida Dick to exert her “authority” and take control of the force’s handling of the controversy.
He told the Standard it was “unacceptable” for former officers to dredge up old evidence to embarrass people. Ex-Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said it was an attempt to “blacken” Mr Green’s name.
The new allegations came from Neil Lewis, who was a Met expert in analysing computers, attached to counter-terrorism investigations. He was part of the team that raided Mr Green’s House of Commons office in 2008.
The operation was mounted to catch a Whitehall official leaking secrets to the Tory MP but officers made the chance discovery that Mr Green’s parliamentary computer appeared to have been used to view porn.
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Lewis said he was “shocked” at the volume of pornographic images and had “no doubt whatsoever” in his mind that these were accessed by Mr Green.
His study of the machine suggested someone spent “hours” browsing porn at Mr Green’s desk in the Commons over many weeks. However, he said the images were “legal” and not violent or extreme.
“The computer was in Mr Green’s office, on his desk, logged in, his account, his name,” said Mr Lewis. “In between browsing pornography, he was sending emails from his account, his personal account, reading documents … it was ridiculous to suggest anybody else could have done it.”
He said that although “you can’t put fingers on a keyboard”, the evidence made him sure it was Mr Green who was accessing the “thumbnail” images. Similar material had also been accessed on Mr Green’s laptop, he claimed.
Mr Green, 61, the MP for Ashford in Kent, became First Secretary of State earlier this year. Experts in civil liberties were shocked by an apparent admission by Mr Lewis that the data copied from Mr Green’s computer was not permanently “deleted” but could have been recovered if needed.
Lord Carlile, a former Lib Dem MP who later served as the independent Government adviser on counter-terror laws, said he was alarmed that retired police officers appeared to be briefing against a Cabinet minister. He said there appeared to be “a complete loss of authority” at Scotland Yard.
“I would expect the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to take charge given that we are dealing with the effective deputy prime minister,” he said.
“I think the whole conduct of the police in this case is quite extraordinary.”
Two senior Tory ex-ministers also criticised the police leaks. Tim Loughton, who sits on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: “This whole matter stinks. The Met urgently need to investigate this leak.
“This raises questions of trust in the police if material that was fully investigated nine years ago and did not merit any action mysteriously reappears.”
Mr Mitchell told the Today programme: “Mr Green has been absolutely emphatic in what he said. He has said repeatedly that he never downloaded or viewed this material.
“I think Mr Green is entitled to be believed. I think the hounding of Mr Green over information which everyone is clear was entirely legal and which he has emphatically denied either downloading or viewing is completely wrong.”
“I think it is highly questionable whether a retired police officer should misuse this sort of material in this way and I think the police need to explain why there was any record kept of entirely legal activity.
A Labour legal figure added: “The police can’t just seize your computer for one reason and then blacken your name with what they found on it later, where no charges are brought.
“Trust in the police depends on them keeping confidential material they obtain through using their powers as police officers.”
If Lord Carlile’s findings regarding Bishop Bell are conclusive, Chichester’s Cathedral authorities would be strongly advised to immediately restore 4 Canon Lane back to George Bell House and immediately restore the Portrait of Bishop Bell – in storage within the private Cathedral Library – to its rightful place.