Tag Archives: Lord Carlile of Berriew

February 13 2018 – Letter to a Bishop – Hugh Wyatt CVO – Former Lord Lieutenant of West Sussex

Hugh Wyatt CVO

January 2018

Rt. Rev. Dr Martin Warner

Bishop of Chichester

The Palace


PO19 1PY

Thank you for sending me a copy of your statement to the Diocese on the

George Bell matter and Lord Carlile’s review.

You have plenty to say about “Carol”. You were “privileged to meet her”; you think “she is a woman of courage and integrity”; she behaved with “dignity and was not greedy”; and you had a “patient and generous conversation” with her.

But, as you admit, George Bell was found guilty by the Core Group. You also say “this was a Church matter”. You are correct – it was – and it failed to deal with the matter properly and fairly.

Many of George Bell’s supporters, some of whom including myself actually knew George Bell, think that the buck stops in Chichester and that you should be carefully considering your position.

February 13 2018 – Release of Bishop Bell Document – A Critical Analysis by His Honour Charles Gibson [distributed by Tom Sutcliffe to General Synod in Feb ’18]


In the Christian liturgy a form of confession comes early on in the service. One would reasonably expect Archbishops and Bishops to be very good at it, not only in services but also in their reflections on the decisions they make in their episcopal and everyday lives. I have considered the responses of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Chichester and the Bishop of Bath and Wells (the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop) to the Carlile Report in the light of this expectation.

Lord Carlile QC was commissioned to conduct a review into the way in which the Church dealt with the complaint made by ‘Carol’, first in 1995 and again in 2012 and 2013, that the late Bishop George Bell had sexually abused her on occasions in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In September 2015 the Church issued a formal apology to Carol, paid her a sum in damages and costs, and issued a public statement in terms which led to widespread reporting of the story, all to the effect that Bishop Bell had been guilty of appalling sexual abuse of a child – a conclusion which, though not expressly stated, was to be implied from the Bishop of Chichester’s “deep sorrow” while he acknowledged 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”. He referred to “the survivor’s courage in coming forward to report the abuse”.

By its statement the Church pinned the label ‘Abuser’ on Bishop Bell as securely as it pinned the labels ‘Survivor’ and ‘Victim’ on Carol.

The inevitable (and eminently foreseeable) publicity led in turn to widespread and passionate responses in defence of the high reputation of Bishop Bell which the Church had destroyed; and the Church was challenged to demonstrate the quality of the process which it had adopted and which had led to such a shocking result.

Lord Carlile’s terms of reference did not include determination of the truthfulness of Carol or the guilt or innocence of Bishop Bell [para 9]. In essence, he was required to examine the procedures which the Church followed, the way in which it obtained and assessed evidence, and whether it was right to make a public statement of apology and pay damages.

In relation to the complaint which Carol made in 1995 Lord Carlile found that the Church did not serve Carol well [para 96]. There can be no argument about that, and the Church’s shortcomings at that time were specifically acknowledged by the Bishop of Chichester in October 2015 and by the Bishop of Bath and Wells in his response to the Carlile report: he described the failures at that time as “lamentable”. Those failures consisted in offering pastoral support but taking the matter no further. It is reasonable to expect the leaders of the Church, having dealt with the matter in recent years with the benefit of wisdom and practice accumulated over twenty years or so since the “lamentable” failures of its predecessors, to be equally willing to acknowledge and castigate any serious failings in their own conduct which Lord Carlile might identify in his report.

Lord Carlile made a large number of specific criticisms of the way in which the Church dealt with the complaint which was made in 2012 and 2013. He accepted that the errors which he identified had been made in good faith, and that they resulted from ‘oversteer’ in the direction of what were believed to be the best interests of Carol and of the Church, and without a calculated intention to destroy Bishop Bell’s reputation. This is unsurprising. It would be scandalous in the extreme if the Church had been found to have acted in bad faith with the specific intention of damaging (more accurately further damaging, having regard to the 2015 statement) Bishop Bell’s reputation. But equally unsurprisingly Lord Carlile found that in fact and in reality his reputation was destroyed in the eyes of all but his strongest supporters [para 119].

Lord Carlile made sixteen criticisms which fall into five categories.

Approach to the investigation

(1) The allegation being serious and apparently credible, the Church implicitly accepted it without serious investigation or enquiry. This was an inappropriate and impermissible approach [para 43]. There was an underlying acceptance of Carol’s case; she was referred to as the ‘victim’, not the ‘complainant’ [para 155(iii)]. The use of this term and ‘survivor’ contributed to decisions which might otherwise have been scrutinised more critically [para 274].

(2) The Church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was the victim of very serious criminal offences were of considerably more importance than the damage done by a possibly false allegation to a person who was no longer alive. This approach was wrong in principle, for three separate reasons [paras 43-48].

(3) No steps were taken to ensure that Bishop Bell’s interests were considered actively by an individual nominated for the purpose. His reputation, and the need for a rigorous factual analysis of the case against him, were swept up by the focus on settling Carol’s claim and the perceived imperative of public transparency [paras 142, 155(ii), 159(i) and (ii), 188]. The Core Group never seriously engaged with protecting the legitimate interests of Bishop Bell [para 263].

(4) The reputation of the Church was apparently treated as of greater importance than the justice of the case [para 155(i)].

Assembling and dealing with evidence and advice
(5) The Church reached a conclusion without actively seeking the widest available

evidence [paras 36, 140-141, 155(iv), 229]. Significant evidence was readily available [paras 214-220 (‘Pauline’), and 221-225 (Canon Adrian Carey)]. See also (10) below, and the detailed points made by the George Bell Group in its Review dated 18 March 2016.1 The Bishop of Chelmsford, who had a very limited knowledge of the case, was wrong to assert in a debate in the House of Lords that the allegations had been “tested ….. so far as possible”.

(6) The Core Group failed to appreciate the appropriate test for prosecution, viz whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction, and the duty of prosecutors to be impartial, following leads which might cast doubt on the complaint as well as those which are likely to support it [para 41].

(7) The Core Group failed to give the considerable weight which should have been given to Bishop Bell’s good character, his inability to defend himself, and the lack of any other allegations [para 56].

(8) Although counsel’s advice was obtained on the issue of which part of the Church (if any) would have to meet an award of damages, no specialist criminal lawyer was asked to advise on the strength of the evidence [para 170]. Such advice probably would have been to the effect that the prospects of a successful prosecution would have been low [para 171]; and it would have affected the approach to negotiations [para 172].

(9) Only some members of the Core Group were shown the full report of the Consultant Psychiatrist who was consulted. Had they all seen the report they would have seen his advice that

http://www.georgebellgroup.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/George-Bell-Case-Review.pdf. 2

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the delays in reporting in this case were exceptional, that memory is not reliable over such long periods, and that the only way to establish the truth of the allegations would be through corroborating evidence [paras 178-181].

(10) Evidence that Bishop Bell had access to many young girls during World War II2 and that this had given rise to no complaints was wrongly treated as not undermining the Core Group’s conclusion that the allegations against Bishop Bell were true [para 233].

Treatment of relevant people

(11) The response of the Archbishop’s staff to the complaint which Carol made in September 2012 was inadequate [para 107].3

(12) Nothing was done to identify living relatives of Bishop Bell and to ensure that they were informed of the allegations, let alone asked for or offered guidance [paras 142, 207].

Constitution of the Core Group
(13) There were unacceptable variations in membership and attendance at meetings ofthe Core Group [para 176].
The various criticisms of the establishment, structure and work of the Core Group were summarised in fourteen separate points in para 254 of the Report.

Settlement of the claim
(14) Insufficient attention was given to points which were available for use in negotiations: the fact that Bishop Bell had been dead for over half a century and a fair trial would be extremely difficult; the absence of any corroborative or similar fact evidence; and that Carol had alleged abuse in 1995 but had not made a claim for many years afterwards [paras 146-147, 155(v), 188, 190].

(15) The Church was wrong to settle Carol’s complaint without an admission of liability, while knowingly and apparently deliberately destroying the reputation of Bishop Bell [para 52].

(16) Lord Carlile stated that if the criticisms which he made were substantially valid the decision to settle the case in the form and manner which was followed was indefensibly wrong [para 258]. With the evidence which he found to be readily available a denial of liability would have been the right initial response by the Church [para 260]. There could have been an economic case for a ‘litigation risk’ settlement with an express denial of liability [para 261]. A confidentiality clause probably would have been complied with, and in the event of breach the repayment aspect of it could have been enforced, and cogent reasons for the settlement could have been given [para 262]. Had this been done the legitimate interests of Bishop Bell would have been protected, and he would not have been cast out into the moral wilderness in any statements by the Church [para 263]. This is what should have been done [para 283].

In reading the report all those who had participated in producing the result which led to the review should have considered carefully (i) the extent to which their acts and omissions were criticised, (ii) to what extent the situation in and after September 2015 would have been different had they acted in such a way as not to have attracted criticism; and consequently (iii) to whom and in what terms they should make apologies. This duty should have been undertaken with humility and frankness, particularly in the light of the unqualified nature of the apology which had been offered for the acts and omissions of Bishop Eric Kemp, the then Bishop of Chichester, in and around 1995.

2 Through his active participation in the Kindertransport scheme.

3 At the time of the complaint the Archbishop was The Most Revd and Rt Hon Rowan Williams. The present Archbishop was elected on 4 February 2013 and enthroned on 21 March 2013.

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It is my firm conclusion that in view of the catalogue of faults which Lord Carlile found in the Church’s approach to dealing with Carol’s complaint and in its processes the one word answer to (ii) is ‘massively’; and that the appropriate apologies would have been deeply penitential.

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, responded to the report on behalf of the Church. As mentioned above, he used the word “lamentable” to describe the handling of the case in 1995. He rejected the recommendation of a confidentiality clause. He accepted that the Church’s processes had been deficient in a number of respects. He claimed that much professional care and discussion were taken over agreeing the settlement and the decision to make it public; and that the Church had acted in good faith throughout with no calculated intention to damage Bishop Bell’s reputation. He apologised for adding to the additional pain suffered by Carol and the Bishop’s surviving relatives by the handling of the case.

The Bishop of Chichester started his statement by asserting that Lord Carlile’s review was a demonstration of the Church’s commitment to equality of justice and transparency. He apologised for failures in the work of the Core Group and for inadequate attention to the rights of the dead. He accepted that there should be further consideration to the complexity of the case, such as what boundaries should be set to the principle of transparency. He described the principle of innocent until proven guilty as “emotive”. He praised Carol’s dignity and integrity, whether she was technically a complainant, survivor or victim.

The Archbishop of Canterbury referred to Bishop Bell’s heroic stature, saying that the decision to publish his name was taken with immense reluctance. He disagreed with the recommendation as to a confidentiality agreement. He observed that Lord Carlile did not seek to say whether Bishop Bell was responsible for the acts alleged. He apologised for failures in the process. He accepted that a significant cloud was left over Bishop Bell’s name, saying that no human being is entirely good or entirely bad, and that while Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero he is also accused of great wickedness.

The most striking aspect of this trio of responses is that in none of them is found any recognition of the radical and damning observations which Lord Carlile made about the Church’s approach to the matter: see (1) to (4) above. Lord Carlile tactfully used the word “oversteer” to describe the Church’s approach and the detail of its work. An equally appropriate term is bias. In the points which Lord Carlile made we can see manifest bias in favour of Carol and against Bishop Bell. This is consistent with the doctrine which has been adopted in recent years by, in particular4, the police. Widely criticised for failing to take seriously complaints of sexual abuse and to deal sensitively with those complaining of it, the police adopted a principle that such complainants were always to be believed and were to be assured that they were believed. This has led inexorably to an inherent disbelief in the alleged abuser; and in practice there has been shown in many cases a sharp contrast between diligence in pursuing lines of enquiry likely to support a complaint and a lackadaisical approach to the equally important duty of pursuing lines of enquiry which may cast doubt on it. This is a duty owed in law by the prosecution in a criminal case. I suggest that the duty is equally owed by all those responsible for dealing with complaints of serious misconduct, not least the Church.

4 See, for example, the recent case of R v Allen, where the officer in the case not only failed to review the complainant’s telephone records, which served to exonerate the defendant, but also asserted that they contained nothing relevant to the issues in the case. In the light of this case and others it seems that there is now a prospect that this intrinsically unjust principle is being abandoned.



Regrettably, the three responses show not a hint of recognition of this duty; and the damning indictment of the breach of it has been lightly brushed aside by prelates who are all too keen to show pride that their “good faith” has been recognised. All that this means is that they did not set out deliberately to destroy Bishop Bell’s reputation. But this is not much of a point in the Church’s favour when that result was eminently foreseeable, indeed virtually certain, as the consequence of the Church’s approach; and we have seen that this approach was replicated throughout the investigation. Moreover, the statement by the Bishop of Chichester that Lord Carlile’s review was “a demonstration of the Church’s commitment to equality of justice” is startlingly inaccurate. On the contrary, it is a demonstration of the Church’s devotion, not to the principle of justice simpliciter, but to the fashionable but misconceived principle of justice for the particular class of persons who claim to be victims and/or survivors. As this case vividly demonstrates, the application of this principle foreseeably, if not inevitably, makes victims of people such as Bishop Bell and those who honour his reputation.

In a very broad way the statements did recognise that there had been faults in the process of investigation. But in view of the wide range of Lord Carlile’s criticisms it was inappropriately boastful of Bishop Hancock to refer to “much professional care and discussion”. Further, although the Bishop of Chelmsford had no more than a walk-on part, he had no justification for saying that the allegation had been “tested ….. so far as possible”.5 This is an example of the Church’s readiness to be reckless in its self serving response to criticism.

The statements showed no recognition of the wholly different result which would have come about had the Church proceeded in the proper manner, based on sound principles, clearly described by Lord Carlile.

It would have been clear that there was not a single shred of corroborating evidence, in circumstances in which, in spite of the passage of time, such evidence could have been found if it existed. Proper attention to the advice of the Consultant Psychiatrist6 would have led to the conclusion that it would be wrong to admit any possibility of Bishop Bell’s guilt. For all Carol’s honest belief in the accuracy of her story, there was no good reason for the Church to share that belief. Quite simply, her memory could not be relied upon after such a long lapse of time, and the absence of any corroboration demonstrated that her memory was at fault.

It was therefore culpably wrong of the Bishop of Chichester to equivocate as to whether Carol was “technically” a complainant, survivor or victim; and the Archbishop of Canterbury was equally culpable in qualifying his recognition of Bishop Bell’s high reputation with the gratuitous comment that “he is also accused of great wickedness”. It appears to me that so wedded is he to the fundamentally flawed approach which Lord Carlile described that he cannot contemplate going any further than admitting that it is equally likely that Bishop Bell was an abuser as it is that he was not. Moreover, it was discreditable of him to support this stance with the assertion that “Lord Carlile does not seek to say whether George Bell was in fact responsible for the acts about which complaint was made”. Of course he does not do so: this question was outside his terms of reference, as he recognised [para 9].

While the Bishops of Bath and Wells and of Chichester in their responses appeared to disclose a measure of willingness to look again at what the Bishop of Chichester called “the

  1. 5  See (5) above.
  2. 6  See (9) above.



principle of transparency”, the Archbishop makes it clear enough that for him this principle trumps all others. It is eminently foreseeable that other people, whether of high reputation or not, will be sacrificed on the altar of transparency before his archiepiscopate comes to an end.

Reading and analysing the material in this case leaves me as a lifelong Anglican with a deep sense of sadness that between my sense of justice, formed and developed over a long period in the law, and that of at least some of the leaders of my Church there is “a great gulf fixed” [Luke 16.26]. I fear that, unless we see a recognition of, and repentance for, the great wrong which has been done to Bishop Bell, to those who treasure memories of him and those who admire him for what he did for the Church and for the moral and spiritual life of the country, that gulf will remain unbridgeable.

His Honour Charles Gibson

December 2017



Since I wrote the Analysis just before Christmas 2017 widespread criticism of the Church’s response to Lord Carlile’s review has been published. Prominent among this body of criticism was a letter dated 17 January 2018 and signed by seven eminent historians.

They asserted that the Church’s response involved perpetuation of a single allegation, and that this flew in the face of the review, which had devastated the Church’s claim that its view was based on an investigation which was “very thorough”. They emphasised that the allegation against Bishop Bell was not only wholly uncorroborated but was contradicted by considerable and available circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible. They claimed that the allegation was unsupported and unsupportable, asserting that there was no credible evidence that Bishop Bell was a paedophile.

In a letter dated 19 January 2018 the Archbishop of Canterbury, writing with the support of the Bishops of Chichester and of Bath and Wells, rejected the contention that the Church should amend its response to the Carlile review.

The letter contains a number of points which in my opinion are wholly without merit.

The Archbishop made much of the Church’s having taken the allegation seriously, implying that in the past the Church had failed to treat such allegations with the seriousness which they deserved. I hope that he was not implying that the historians or any other of those who have expressed criticism have suggested that any such allegation need not be taken seriously, for any such implication would be insulting. In making so much of the seriousness of the Church’s intent and its determination to listen carefully and sympathetically to those making allegations the Archbishop is pushing at an open door. None of the critics would suggest otherwise.

Taking an allegation seriously involves investigating it thoroughly, and the Archbishop appears to persist in the contention that the Church passed this test, in spite of Lord Carlile’s unequivocal opinion that it did not: see in particular items (1), (2), (3), (5), (7), (8), (9), (10) and (13) in my Analysis. For him and the Bishops it seems that performance of the duty to treat the complainant seriously absolved the Church from the equally important duties to avoid bias and ‘oversteer’, to seek out and investigate all potentially relevant evidence, and to be prepared not to shirk from drawing the conclusion to which the evidence inexorably leads.

In this case that conclusion was clear. It was ignored because of the Church’s incorrect approach to the matter, and as a result of a particular example of the shoddiness of its processes. Not all members of the Core Group, which in any event had a variable membership, saw the full report of the Consultant Psychiatrist whom the Church consulted. Those who did see it cannot have read it thoroughly. His advice was unequivocal. Memory is not reliable over the long periods which elapsed in this case, and the only way to establish the truth of the product of such memory is through corroborating evidence. In its investigation the Church failed to seek such evidence. Had it done so it would have found none. Moreover, as the historians point out, there was a wealth of persuasive circumstantial evidence which was not neutral: it contradicted and undermined the allegation.

The Church has shirked the difficult, but necessary, task of explaining to Carol that after thorough investigation of her complaint her honesty was accepted, but that the Church could not


in good conscience and with fairness rely on her memory. The reasons for that conclusion could have been explained to her in a pastoral way, without derogation from the policy of taking allegations seriously.

The Archbishop states that “claims are from time to time dismissed because we do not accept the allegations. However, we do take all allegations seriously”. That being the case, why was this claim not dismissed? On the expert evidence, it was not to be accepted unless it was corroborated. The Archbishop, in a comment which is as patronising as it is inaccurate, suggests that the historians in their letter seem to confuse the two standards of proof, beyond reasonable doubt and on a balance of probabilities. The point which he wilfully ignores is that the evidence in this case was such that no reasonable tribunal, applying the latter standard which all agree was the appropriate one, could have concluded that Bishop Bell was guilty in any respect.

That conclusion would have disposed of the allegation. Once a tribunal has found that an allegation is unreliable it has no business to give it further currency. The Archbishop compounds the wrong he and others have already done by repeating that Bishop Bell is “accused of great wickedness” and that a “significant cloud” still hangs over him.

It is disturbing to see the Archbishop recording that “the Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof”. Maybe it was; but, as Lord Carlile observed, legal advice was not sought on the strength of the evidence. The advice must have been tendered on the basis of the conclusions of the Core Group, which, as has been clearly demonstrated, were fatally flawed.

On the insupportable basis that the allegation has a continuing validity the Archbishop insists that to achieve transparency Bishop Bell had to be named. What happens in those cases, which he says do occur, when claims are dismissed, as this claim should have been? Is the alleged perpetrator against whom there is no reliable evidence to be hung out to dry as Bishop Bell continues to be? If this is the case, the sooner the Archbishop treats Lord Carlile’s opinion and recommendation with the seriousness which he accorded to Carol’s allegation the better.

Unless he does so, any pronouncement of his as to where justice lies in any situation is not to be treated with respect by those, whether or not they are members of the Church which he leads, who are seriously concerned with justice.

His Honour Charles Gibson

23 January 2018

January 22 2018 – “Archbishop of Canterbury stands by statement saying there is a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name” – Christian Today



Archbishop of Canterbury stands by statement saying there is a ‘significant cloud’ over Bishop George Bell’s name

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has declined to rescind his statement that said Bishop George Bell still has a ‘significant cloud’ left over his name following the publication of a critical report into the Church of England’s handling of an abuse claim against the late bishop.

The refusal by the Archbishop of Canterbury to change his position follows a letter sent to Lambeth Palace and the Daily Telegraph last week by seven eminent academics expressing their ‘profound dismay’ at the ‘irresponsible and dangerous’ statement, in which ‘Archbishop Welby said of Bell that ‘a significant cloud is left over his name’.

In a statement issued today, Welby referred back to the separate case of Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, who was released from prison in February last year after serving 16 months for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 vulnerable young men who had sought spiritual guidance from him between 1977 and 1992.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Reuters Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. 

A damning independent inquiry last year found that the CofE ‘colluded’ with the abuse ‘rather than seeking to help those he had harmed’.

In new comments that risk angering supporters of Bishop Bell, Welby said today: ‘The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic.’

The Church of England was criticised in the independent Carlile report published in December for a ‘rush to judgment’ in its handling of the allegations against Bishop Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester who died in 1958. The report by Lord Carlile said that although the Church acted in good faith, its processes were deficient and it failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.

In today’s statement, which Welby said reflected the ‘considered, personal response’ he has now sent the academics, the Archbishop said: ‘I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case. I affirmed the extraordinary courage and achievement of Bishop Bell both before the war and during its course, while noting the Church has a duty to take seriously the allegation made against him.

‘Our history over the last 70 years has revealed that the Church covered up, ignored or denied the reality of abuse on major occasions. I need only refer to the issues relating to Peter Ball to show an example. As a result, the Church is rightly facing intense and concentrated scrutiny (focused in part on the Diocese of Chichester) through the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). Our first hearing is in March.

‘The Diocese of Chichester was given legal advice to make a settlement based on the civil standard of proof, the balance of probability. It was not alleged that Bishop Bell was found to have abused on the criminal standard of proof, beyond reasonable doubt. The two standards should not be confused. It should be remembered that Carol, who brought the allegation, was sent away in 1995, and we have since apologised for this lamentable failure; a failure highlighted by Lord Carlile.

‘I wrote my response with the support of both Bishop Peter Hancock, the lead bishop for safeguarding, and Bishop Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester. We are clear that we accept all but part of one of the recommendations Lord Carlile makes and we are extremely grateful to him for what he has done and the help he has given the church.

‘He indicates that in his judgment, a better way to have handled the allegation would have been for the Church to offer money on condition of confidentiality. We disagree with this suggestion. The confidentiality would have been exposed through the IICSA process, and the first question we would have faced, both about Bishop Bell and more widely, would have been ‘so what else are you concealing?’. The letter from the historians does not take into account any of these realities, nor the past failures of the Church. But we will go on considering how we can make our processes better and more robust, as pointed out by Lord Carlile.

‘As in the case of Peter Ball, and others, it is often suggested that what is being alleged could not have been true, because the person writing knew the alleged abuser and is absolutely certain that it was impossible for them to have done what is alleged. As with Peter Ball this sometimes turns out to be untrue, not through their own fault or deceit but because abuse is often kept very secret. The experience of discovering feet of clay in more than one person I held in profound respect has been personally tragic. But as I said strongly in my original statement the complaint about Bishop Bell does not diminish the importance of his great achievements and he is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century.’

The statement is in response to the letter by Prof Sir Ian Kershaw, one of the world’s leading authorities on the Third Reich, Prof Charmian Brinson, Prof Andrew Chandler, Professor John Charmley, Prof Michael J Hughes, Prof Jeremy Noakes and Prof Keith Robbins.

George Bell
Lambeth Palace Library

They wrote: ‘None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury.

‘But we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous.

‘We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.’

Before the allegations were made public by the Church of England, Bishop Bell was known as a highly revered theologian who was widely regarded as a hero for his work helping victims of Nazi persecution.

But in a statement following the Carlile report, Archbishop Welby left open the possibility that Bell was guilty, saying that he was ‘accused of great wickedness’ and apologised only ‘for the failures of the process’.

In their letter to Welby, the historians – including two biographers of former Archbishops of Canterbury – said that they ‘wish to express our profound dismay with the position you have taken’.

They wrote that the current Archbishop’s position ‘offends the most basic values and principles of historical understanding’.

They continued: ‘The allegation [against Bell] is not only wholly uncorroborated but is contradicted by all the considerable, and available, circumstantial material which any historian would consider credible.

The letter went on: ‘We cannot understand how such an unsupported, indeed insupportable, allegation can be upheld by a responsible public authority. Quite simply, it is indefensible.’

In his original statement, Welby had noted that Lord Carlile did not decide on guilt, but the academics pointed out he was deliberately prevented from doing so by the terms of reference that had been set out by the CofE.

They wrote: ‘We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was a paedophile.

‘We state this after reviewing all that is known about his character and behaviour over many years.’

They concluded that Bell has been ‘impugned from within his own Church of England’, adding: ‘There is today no cloud at all over Bishop Bell. Nobody employing credible critical method could think otherwise.’

January 22 2018 – “Bishop George Bell” – The Times – Letters to the Editor – 10 Chichester Cathedral Choristers

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As former Chichester Cathedral choristers and Prebendal School pupils in the late 1940s and 1950s, we protested in 2015 at the defamation of Bishop George Bell implicit in the church’s response to the claim by a woman around the same age as us that she had been sexually abused by him when very young (“Justice for Bell”, letters, Jan 19). We are delighted at the conclusions of Lord Carlile of Berriew’s report.

We choristers had a fair sense of George Bell as a man whose fundamental integrity we saw, and throughout our life have continued to value. Our doubts about the claims reflected the strong impression he made, and also the fact that we, alas, had some real experience of what a paedophile could be: a master was relieved of his post and replaced without police involvement when one of us went with his parents to tell the dean what had been happening. We have never accepted that “Carol” identified Bishop Bell rightly as her abuser.

The church now has a responsibility to restore Bishop Bell to his deserved and special place in its life. He remains a saintly figure for those who knew him in the way we did, or have studied his record. Bishop Bell spoke out bravely and worked tirelessly.

He called the 1943 bombing of civilians in Hamburg an unjustifiable act of war. He was the closest foreign friend and supporter of the 1944 Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He helped to found the World Council of Churches in 1948. He welcomed to his bishop’s palace Jewish refugee families from Nazi persecution.

It is surprising that Archbishop Welby and various bishops seem no longer to recognise why this great, clear-sighted man has been treated as an Anglican saint with prayers for his own day of remembrance in the calendar. Holding their offices, they surely should.

Tom Sutcliffe, Roger Davis, Stewart Kershaw, Grevile Bridge, Roger Manser, Peter Watts, Roger Gooding, Tony Plumridge, Peter Hamel-Cooke, Francis Sutcliffe



Thursday February 1 2018 – Church House Westminster

January 20 2018 – “Justice for Bishop Bell” – Daily Telegraph – Letters – His Honour Anthony Nicholl


Daily Telegraph – Letters – 20 Jan 2018 – Press Reader


SIR – In English law, a superior court that finds the decision of a lower court fundamentally flawed has one of two courses to take. It can either quash the decision outright or remit it to the lower court to reconsider in accordance with the principles of law.

In their letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury (report, January 18), seven academics have pointed out that the Church of England prevented Lord Carlile from deciding on the guilt of George Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester. However, that behaviour does not enable it to escape the implication of Lord Carlile’s finding that the process, that led the Core Group – charged with investigating the allegation – to impugn Bishop Bell, was fundamentally flawed.

If the Church wishes to act justly it has two options. If it is to maintain that “a cloud” remains over Bishop Bell’s reputation, it must set up a fresh independent review into the truth or otherwise of the claims made by his accuser “Carol”, to be conducted in accordance with the correct principles of procedure.. It must abide by the result. However, if the Church is not prepared to go to the expense of such a review, it must accept that the Core Group’s finding of guilt cannot stand – and say so.

It seems likely that a further review would be a waste of money. The Church should therefore be glad to dispel the cloud wrongly cast upon the reputation of a great man.


His Honour Anthony Nicholl – Stratford-upon-avon, Warwickshire

January 21 2018 – “Imagine…….” – Peter Hitchens – The Mail on Sunday


Imagine what would have happened if, after the Appeal Court had found (say) the Birmingham Six innocent, the Home Secretary had said: ‘I still think there’s a significant cloud over their names. I’m not letting them go.’

Well, this is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report.

Lord Carlile QC, who reviewed the case, says that had Bishop Bell been alive when the accusations were made, ‘there would have been absolutely no chance… of him being convicted’.

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report

This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (pictured), is behaving over Bishop George Bell, wrongly accused of child abuse and cleared last month by a devastating report


But the Archbishop refuses to accept that his Church was mistaken when it publicly condemned Bishop Bell.

Now a group of powerful historians and another group of international church leaders have written sternly to Mr Welby, telling him to accept the verdict.

Is he big enough to climb down? We shall see. But if not, is he big enough for his throne?


January 19 2018 – “Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report” – Church Times (online only) – Reporter: Adam Becket

Welby is urged to withdraw George Bell ‘cloud’ statement after Carlile report

Portrait: George Bell, painted in 1955


THE Archbishop of Canterbury faces gathering international opposition and criticism over his response to the Carlile review of the Bishop Bell affair.

Two letters — one from seven academic historians, and another from 11 correspondents associated with the wider Church internationally and ecumenically — have been sent to the Archbishop. A third, from a group of theologians, is understood to be in preparation.

The historians’ letter expresses “profound dismay” at the Archbishop’s public statement after the publication of the Carlile report, and is scathing in its criticisms. It declares that the office of Archbishop gives him “no authority to pronounce on the reputation of Bishop Bell in the manner you have done. We are prepared, in this letter, to claim that authority. We state our position bluntly. There is no credible evidence at all that Bishop Bell was paedophile.”

The Carlile report concluded that Church of England officials had “rushed to judgement” when they concluded that Bishop Bell had sexually abused a young girl in the 1950s.

The historians — Professors Charmian Brinson, Andrew Chandler, John Charmley, Michael J. Hughes, Sir Ian Kershaw, Jeremy Noakes, and Keith Robbins — call on Archbishop Welby to withdraw comments that he made after the publication of the report, when he said that a “significant cloud is left over his [Bishop Bell’s] name” (News, 22 December).

They write: “None of us may be considered natural critics of an Archbishop of Canterbury, but we must also draw a firm line. The statement of 15 December 2017 seems to us both irresponsible and dangerous.

“We therefore urge you, in all sincerity, to repudiate what you have said before more damage is done and thus to restore the esteem in which the high, historic office to which you have been called has been held.”

The Revd Dr Keith Clements, a veteran Baptist ecumenist and former general secretary of the Conference of European Churches, is the lead signatory of the ecumenical letter, which urges that the wider community’s interests not be subordinated to the reputational interests of the C of E.

Dr Clement’s co-signatories include Professor John Briggs, a former member of the World Council of Churches’ executive committee; Bob Fyffe, secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI); and David Carter, former secretary of CTBI’s Theology and Unity Group. Others are Dr Guy Carter, Professor John W. de Gruchy, the Revd John W. Matthews, Dr Jacob Phillips, Dr Jaakko Rusama, Dr Ferdinand Schlingensiepen, and Canon Professor David Thompson.

They call on Archbishop Welby to do justice to Bishop Bell. “He is central to the ecumenical story of Christianity in the twentieth century, and as an inspiring leader he belongs to the ecumenical movement no less than to his own Church. The way in which the allegations against him were dealt with, and the slur allowed to fall on his character, has been deeply hurtful to all such,” they write.

“The ecumenical fellowship which regards George Bell as belonging to its own communion of saints will therefore expect that the Church of England will acknowledge its responsibility not just to its own interests and public reputation but to that wider community of which it is a part, and restore George Bell to his proper place of esteem.”