15 May 2019
Please Sign This Petition for Truth and Justice
I hesitate to ask readers one again to support a petition, but my good friend Peter Billingham, a long-standing and dedicated fighter in the cause of truth, and justice for the late George Bell, needs your support in a good enterprise.
There is now no serious question that the late Bishop Bell has emerged with his reputation unstained after allegations made against him. Regular readers will know of the case, but for new readers, or those wishing to refresh their memories, the best summary of the long saga may be read here http://www.georgebellgroup.org/statement-may-2019/
The distinguished QC Lord Carlile of Berriew reviewed the case in a report which showed that the investigation of the allegations against the late Bishop bell was a one-sided, sloppy kangaroo court. But the Archbishop of Canterbury, who commissioned that report, debarred him from stating a conclusion about George Bell’s guilt or innocence. Lord Carlile made it clear, when questioned at the time of publication, that he thought the case against George bell was extraordinarily weak. He has since said clearly that he believes that Bishop Bell *was* innocent of the charges,
Lord Carlile declared on 1 February 2019, ‘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.’
But while the Church has plainly retreated from its earlier attitude, and the media which joined hastily in the Church’s hasty, unfair condemnation are now licking their wounds, relieved that the dead have no redress in such situations, there is still a failure in some quarters to admit error. In a Stalinist frenzy after the first accusations were made, George Bell’s name was hurriedly and shamefully stripped from a number of buildings and institutions, by people who failed to understand the most basic principles of English justice.
The most important of these was the handsome and tranquil guest house in Chichester Cathedral precincts, called George Bell House. This building was originally the gift of an order of Anglican nuns who had loved George Bell when he was alive and wanted to honour him after his death. Yet despite the vindication of George Bell by the Carlile review, his name has still not been restored to it. This is small-minded and petty, and putting it right would go a long way towards the penitence the Chichester authorities, and the Church of England as a whole, ought to show.
So, in the names of Truth and Justice, I ask you please to take a moment to add your names to this petition:
Wednesday Feb 20 – 17.45-19.00 – Questions – David Lamming
“Has the House of Bishops considered encouraging the Archbishop of Canterbury to revisit the judgement he expressed on 15 December 2017 (on publication of the Carlile Review) that ‘a significant cloud is left over [Bishop Bell’s] name’, particularly in view of the Briden Report dated 17 January 2019 and the recent statement by Lord Carlile that ‘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’?”
40. The decision of the Right Worshipful Timothy Briden (acting in his capacity as
commissary to the Bishop of Chichester) was published by the Bishop of Chichester
and the Archbishops’ Council on 24 January 2019. The decision related to ‘fresh
information’ brought to the attention of the Church following publication of Lord Carlile’s independent review into the Church’s original handling of allegations against the late Bishop George Bell. The terms of reference for the independent investigation and independent ‘decision-making body’ (Timothy Briden) did not involve re-investigating the allegations made by ‘Carol’, for which a civil settlement had already be made.
“With Lord Carlile QC and Timothy Briden upholding the moral and legal principle of the presumption of innocence and justly declaring Bishop Bell innocent in law, should Archbishop Welby and Bishop Warner be allowed to defy this principle by refusing to declare Bishop Bell innocent?”
~ Richard W. Symonds
George Bell ‘should not have been named’ in Church’s settlement of sex abuse allegation
08 FEBRUARY 2019
A confidentiality clause should have governed the payment made to “Carol”, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has said
The house at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, once called Bishop Bell House
THE blackening of George Bell’s name would not have happened had there been a confidentiality clause governing the payment made to “Carol”, who accused him of sexual abuse, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said on Monday.
Dr Warner was addressing supporters of Bishop Bell at the Rebuilding Bridges conference, held at 4 Canon Lane, Chichester, to which supporters wish to see the name “George Bell House” restored.
The naming was up to the Dean and Chapter, the Bishop reiterated (News, 1 February), but he indicated that the cathedral should make more of the Sisters of the Cross, who had donated the house.
“I don’t think simply renaming it ‘George Bell House’ will just do the job. We cannot rewrite history, but we must do better.”
More generally, he suggested that the Church of England must “speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did” to restore his reputation. It was “report that makes a person famous for their good deeds. . . So, it seems that for us in the diocese and the Church of England at large, it is important that we are able to speak of the achievements, the good things that Bishop Bell did.”
This had been done on “a number of occasions”, he said, one of which had been his address at a commemoration of the Reformation, in Coburg in 2017. “I believe history will tell the good deeds of Bishop Bell, and I believe they will stand the test of time.”
Dr Warner resisted calls to pronounce Bishop Bell innocent, prompting one speaker to explain that “most here are troubled because the idea of innocence until proven guilty touches everyone.”
He did, though, indicate his acceptance of a key recommendation by Lord Carlile of Berwick, who conducted a review of the Church’s handling of the accusation against Bishop Bell, that the dealings with Carol should have been confidential. “The fault lies with us as the institution, and it is clearly identified in Lord Carlile’s report, as having gone public. We have to own up to that and face it. I’m very clear about that. I take part of the responsibility.
“If you want to know about justice, it’s not about guilty or innocent, but what is made public. Had we said nothing about a settlement with Carol, had there been a confidentiality clause, none of this would have reached the public domain. . .
“We are clear on how wrong we were on publicising the process.”
A statement by Lord Carlile was read at the conference: “The Church should accept that my recommendations should be accepted in full, and Bishop Bell should be declared by the Church to be innocent of the allegations made against him.”
His review had not been asked to determine whether Bishop Bell was innocent, but he had concluded that the case was not strong enough even to be brought to court (News, 22 December 2017).
Among the resolutions carried at the conference was one calling for an apology by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and another asking for a debate in the General Synod.
Bishop Bell – Complete justice denied after second inquiry
For three years Alistair Lexden has been part of a campaign to establish the truth about allegations of child sex abuse made, long after his death over sixty years ago, against the great Anglican Bishop, George Bell.
He spoke at length about the Church of England’s deeply unsatisfactory handling of the allegations in a Lords debate on 20 December (see below). The Church was gravely at fault in paying compensation of some £15,000 in 2015 to a complainant on the basis of her uncorroborated testimony after a deeply flawed internal inquiry, on which Lord Carlile of Berriew QC produced a damning report, published in December 2017.
A second inquiry by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, Timothy Briden, was established at the beginning of 2018, after a further allegation had been made. His report, which was published on 24 January, stated that this allegation, and one other which also surfaced in 2018, were “ unfounded”. Here justice has been done.
The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the Briden report and praised Bishop Bell as “ a remarkable role model”. He also “ apologised unreservedly for the mistakes” made during the investigation of the first allegation, but he nevertheless stood by the decision to accept the wholly uncorroborated complaint despite the damning Carlile report—as a result of which Bishop Bell’s towering reputation has been traduced.
The overall interests of justice required the Archbishop to admit that the first allegation was not proved and Bishop Bell is therefore innocent. He refuses to do this. Desmond Browne QC, a former Chairman of the Bar Council, has followed everything that has happened since 2015. He said on 24 January: “ 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.” Justin Welby has failed in his clear duty.