Tag Archives: National Safeguarding Team [NST]

Dec 22 2019 – “Church Safeguarding – Not a prayer” – Private Eye

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Church House Westminster

https://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/update-on-safe-spaces-following-media-report/#comments

Update on Safe Spaces following media report

The Church of England issued the press release below today. It appears to be in response to an article in Private Eye which was tweeted here yesterday.

Update on Safe Spaces following media report
21/12/2019

A spokesperson for the National Safeguarding Team said: “Safe Spaces is planned as a vital support service for survivors of church-related abuse across the Church of England and the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

“The delay in progressing the support service, first officially discussed in 2014, is a matter of regret which the Church of England acknowledges and apologises for. But since the appointment of a project manager and the creation of the Safe Spaces Management Board last year eight survivor representatives from across both Churches are involved in ensuring we find the right organisation to deliver the project.

“Their knowledge, skill and personal experience in shaping the model for Safe Spaces alongside their commitment and support for the procurement process is integral to finding the right organisation to deliver the project.

“All grant money from both churches and ATL has been ring fenced for the project and no money from the £592,000 grant has been spent to date, and no new company has been set up. Pre set-up costs, procurement, project management and development are separate to this and the cost is being shared across both Churches.

“Following an initial procurement process, the Board has agreed that it would not be recommending the appointment of a preferred supplier to deliver the project; this decision was taken in partnership with the survivor representatives.

“Over the coming weeks the Board in partnership with survivors will agree the next steps and the best way forward. Survivor voices remain central to any future success of this new service and their welfare and support is an absolute priority for the Church in its continuing safeguarding work.

“Both churches are committed to supporting survivors of church-related abuse and providing an independent national service for survivors of any form of church-related abuse.”

COMMENTS
Janet Fife

‘since the appointment of a project manager and the creation of the Safe Spaces Management Board last year eight survivor representatives from across both Churches are involved in ensuring we find the right organisation to deliver the project.’ I’m glad they are involving survivors in this, although I suspect they aren’t asking some who have been most vocal. I’m sure Matt Ineson would have something to say – and until the Church is ready to hear him, and Gilo, and “Graham’, and others, it won’t get very far. But as the project manager and board were appointed ‘last year’ –… Read more »

Martin Sewell

The Church seems to have lost the plot on this. One cannot hear of the delay and the associated costs without a rising sense of anger. Questions must be asked and more importantly – answered. This is not said in a vindictive sense but simply to seek an answer to the plainest of questions. “ How did the main thing cease to be the main thing?” The need was there, the victims known, the resource was available. It ought to have been possible to scope and deliver something for survivors within a year, by any team of competent managers. If… Read more »

Fr. Dean Henley

Presumably when she was the Chief Nurse the Bishop of London must have overseen projects far bigger than this one. Why has everyone involved been so inept, had no sense of urgency given their rhetoric on safeguarding. Old school politicians such as Lord Carrington resigned when there were serious failings such as this; why haven’t senior bishops resigned over this pitiful episode? Thank God for Private Eye and a free press!

This doesn’t look good. Depressing really. Am I a fool to be surprised at the prevarication, the EIG involvement and the procurement story, especially 2buy2. “They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour: they do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble in their double heart.” Why not let the survivors run the project completely? OK, I know why not.

Matthew Ineson and the “Review of Trevor Devamanikkam case” – ‘Thinking Anglicans’

Review of Trevor Devamanikkam case

COMMENTS
Matthew Ineson
I was called yesterday afternoon by the NST and the Statement read to me. I disagreed with it and pointed out the untruths in it. I was told my points would be raised with Melissa Caslake. This was not done and the statement was published virtually straight away.

I have NEVER said I will give aural or documentary evidence to the church’s proposed ‘reviewer’, in fact I have categorically said I will not (as the ‘review’ is currently proposed). The reviewer will not get sight of all documents cos she wont get mine until a genuine independent review is agreed. The statement is misleading and contains untruths.
My position remains the same as it always has. This review is a review into how the church handled my disclosures both before and during the police investigation plus events after Devamanikkam’s death. It is wrong, therefore, that the church appoint the person who is going to investigate their actions, write a terms of reference into the investigation (no terms of reference have yet been drawn up anyway) and control the whole investigation into themselves. We have repeatedly asked the church to work with us to have a totally independent review, which they have refused.
The church have appointed their proposed ‘reviewer’ on their own terms and I was told only yesterday by Melissa Caslake that no one from the church has contacted Mr Devamanikkam’s family or representatives to ask if they would like to be involved.
The church are steamrollering ahead, trying to control an investigation into themselves. This is open to corruption.
I would work 100% with a genuinely independent review. This is not it and while the church still try to ride roughshod over victims of abuse like myself (as they have with the publication of this statement) I will not be cooperating and have never agreed to.
Why is the church afraid of a truly independent review?
If, for example, a policeman was facing an investigation into his conduct he would not be the one interviewing and appointing the investigator nor would he be writing the terms of reference. So why should the church in this case?
And what does the proposed ‘reviewer’ actually think she is going to be doing as no terms of reference have yet been drawn up? Who would agree to such a job without knowing what they will be doing?
This is a sham. It is open to corruption. It is bullying again.

July 7 2019 – “Bishop Hancock challenges the Synod on safeguarding” – Church Times

Bishop Hancock challenges the Synod on safeguarding

07 JULY 2019

SAM ATKINS/CHURCH TIMES

The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock (centre) with Meg Munn and Phil Johnson

 

 

https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/12-july/news/uk/bishop-hancock-challenges-the-synod-on-safeguarding

VAGUE and evasive talk of culture change” over safeguarding is “not enough”, the Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Hancock, told the General Synod on Sunday.

In a presentation, the Bishop said that the Church’s approach to survivors had been “inadequate”, and that all had a part to play in improving safeguarding practice.

“Vague and evasive talk of culture change is not enough,” he said. “It is driven by structures, appointments, and decisions. . .

“My challenge to Synod is that, if you are concerned about safeguarding in the Church, now is the time up to stand up, be counted, and get involved.”

A survivor who formed part of the presentation group, Phil Johnson, was one of the first to come forward, in 1996, with allegations of sexual abuse by a former Bishop of Gloucester and Lewes, Peter Ball. Mr Johnson is a member of the National Safeguarding Panel.

Mr Johnson told the Synod that safeguarding should be simple. “It is about vigilance, protection, and compassion,” he said. “It is not about endless bureaucracy.”

He said that the Church should not think that its safeguarding was necessarily better simply because it was spending more money on it.

Mr Johnson went on to say that the work to create a survivors’ reference group was very difficult, largely because so many victims had an “immense lack of trust” in the Church and the National Safeguarding Team (NST).

He was glad that the Safe Spaces project was close to completion, although he noted that he had first proposed it nearly six years ago, and, although money had been allocated for it, not a single penny had yet been spent on survivors. “This typifies how the Church does things,” he said. “We all need to come together to make things simpler, more efficient, quicker, and more cost-effective.”

The session began with a period of silence, and the Bishop said a prayer that had been written by a survivor of abuse: “Teach us to thirst for justice and righteousness in our Church . . . We lament the safeguarding failures of our Church. . . Helps us to repair broken lives so that those our Church has harmed may no longer survive but thrive.”

Safeguarding questions had been split from the rest of the questions, which were heard on Friday, to allow proper space for them. Bishop Hancock thanked the Business Committee for this approach; a presentation on safeguarding was given by the bishop, Mr Johnson, and Meg Munn, the chair of the National Safeguarding Panel.

In response to a question from Carolyn Graham (Guildford) about safeguarding cases’ being “passed around from diocese to diocese”, Bishop Hancock said that work was under way on an information-sharing system. A national case-management system would mean wider access to information lodged centrally. This would bring rigour. Asked by Canon Gavin Kirk (Lincoln) about survivors whose experience had led them to distrust the diocese where they lived, Bishop Hancock said that the voices of survivors must be heard in the process of redrafting safeguarding guidance.

He told Canon Rosie Harper (Oxford), who asked about the “moral imperative to restore and heal”, going further than “bare minimum legal redress”, that one part of the answer was to have a “standards-based approach to safeguarding”, and another was a charter “to provide survivors with confidence there is going to be consistency across dioceses”.

Some responses to safeguarding issues had been “woefully inadequate”, he said. He also reported that there had been attempts to establish mediation between survivors and the NST and some work had recently been commissioned on “restorative justice”.

In his presentation, Bishop Hancock said that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) hearings had not been an easy experience for the Church. Some “justifiably difficult questions are being asked of us”, he said. But the inquiry had shone a “helpful light” on the C of E’s safeguarding procedures and failings.

He strongly urged every member of the Synod to read the two interim reports already released by IICSA: one on the case study of Chichester diocese and Peter Ball, and one on child sexual abuse in the context of religious institutions. The key findings in both reports, which were “harrowing and difficult to read”, were that clericalism and deference were causing “significant harm” (News, 9 May

A new case-management system for both national and diocesan safeguarding teams, which had been “sorely lacking”, was finally almost ready and would be rolled out next year, he reported.

He also said there would be three new lessons-learned reviews of the cases of John Smyth, the Revd Trevor Devamanikkam, and the late former Bishop of Chester, Victor Whitsey (News, 10 February 201716 June 201724 May).

A working group had been convened to examine whether the Clergy Disicpline Measure (CDM) was fit for its purpose in relation to safeguarding, he said. The group would have its first meeting in October (News, 31 May).

Ms Munn paid tribute to the three survivor representatives on the panel, who, despite being so damaged by their experiences of abuse, were still able and willing to help the Church become a safer place.

“The Church is late to this work: it needs to catch up; it has a lot to do,” she said. “I see a lot of people with good intentions, but you all need to do more, and do more, more quickly.”

SAM ATKINS/CHURCH TIMES Phil Johnson

Mr Johnson praised the leadership of Ms Munn and said that he was hopeful that this increased level of scrutiny would bear fruit. In particular, he was convinced that the CDM procedure was inadequate and needed reform.

The proposed redress scheme was very important for survivors and would need to be well funded, Mr Johnson said. It must include all cases of abuse, including those that had already come to financial settlements; many of these were agreed out of fear that the survivor might be landed with the Church’s “astronomical” legal costs.

He also supported the introduction of mandatory reporting of abuse allegations, along the lines developed by the pressure group Mandate Now. Two-thirds of current safeguarding cases were still dealt with exclusively in-house, he noted. Without actual sanctions for people who failed to pass on disclosures, the culture would never change.

In the questions following the presentations, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, on a point of order, asked the view of the Synod on mandatory reporting, to which a majority raised their hands in favour. It was one of the recommendations of the IICSA report on Chichester diocese.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, asked whether the Church still had a problem with clericalism, and whether it hindered good safeguarding practice.

Mr Johnson said that there had been a lot of deference, but that this was not a problem only for the Church. He gave the example of football clubs, where coaches had a great deal of authority. This was evident in the conviction of Barry Bennell, a former coach at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, and the conviction of Bob Higgins, the former Southampton coach, both for child sexual abuse.

The natural tendency to keep things in-house was a problem, Mr Johnson said. “Watching IICSA this last week, there’s clearly evidence that this remains,” he said. It was everyone’s responsibility to address this, and to make these subjects non-taboo. “Things should be recorded in a routine manner,” he argued.

He received a standing ovation for his words during the Synod debate.

There was criticism that there was not a full Synod debate on safeguarding. Last week, Martin Sewell, a representative from Rochester diocese, called the Synod “lazy and incurious” (News, 5 July).

Matthew Ineson, a survivor, who was handing out leaflets outside York Minster on Sunday morning, said: “The Archbishops blocked the debate [on safeguarding]: they are manipulating the Synod.

“There is a cover-up going on from the very highest parts of the Church; Archbishop Welby has persistently taken no further action. The way victims are treated is just diabolical.”

At the end of the service, before the blessing was given, Dr Sentamu led the congregation in prayer for those who were part of IICSA, and for survivors.

Jan 24 2019 – “A report by Timothy Briden relating to Bishop George Bell” – Chichester Cathedral

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Chichester Cathedral [from 4 Canon Lane – formerly George Bell House]

Chichester Cathedral Enterprises Ltd

https://www.chichestercathedral.org.uk/news/report-timothy-briden-relating-bishop-george-bell

A report by Timothy Briden, relating to Bishop George Bell

24th Jan 2019

A report by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence.

The Cathedral Chapter welcomes Timothy Briden’s report and the accompanying statements by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team, the Bishop of Chichester and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The full report and statements can be found here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/safeguarding/safeguarding-news-statements/national-safeguarding-team-statement-bishop-bell

The Bishop of Chichester’s statement refers to the difficulty of this complex 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.’

The Archbishop of Canterbury also notes:

‘The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) has already questioned the Church of England over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our hearings will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident, just and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse by the church in the future. We have apologised, and will continue to do so, for our poor response to those brave enough to come forward, while acknowledging that this will not take away the effects of the abuse.

This very difficult issue therefore leaves the church with an impossible dilemma which I hope people with different perspectives on it will try to understand.’

April 12 2019 – “Church abuse survivors speak out over handling of Bishop of Chester misconduct complaint” – Chester Standard – Steve Creswell

https://www.chesterstandard.co.uk/news/17567171.church-abuse-survivors-speak-out-over-handling-of-bishop-of-chester-misconduct-complaint/

Church abuse survivors speak out over handling of Bishop of Chester misconduct complaint

Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster.

SPECIAL REPORT

Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster.

SURVIVORS of sexual abuse by members of the clergy have raised concerns about the Church’s handling of a formal complaint against the Bishop of Chester.

The Standard has spoken to two victims of historic abuse who fear a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) brought against Bishop Peter Forster will not be judged objectively.

One is priest Matt Ineson who was raped in the 1980s by a Bradford vicar who took his own life on the day of his first court appearance two years ago.

CDMs are the Church’s in-house disciplinary process and are always escalated to the Diocesan bishop – or sometimes the archbishop – to pass judgement.

Critics say the lack of public accountability and ‘behind closed doors’ nature of the complaints procedure make it easy for senior clergy to cover up allegations of abuse.

The CDM filed at the end of March against Bishop Forster relates to reports that in 2009 he ignored a letter from Warrington vicar Charles Gordon Dickenson confessing to child abuse.

Dickenson, now 89, was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court last month after admitting eight counts of sexual assault against a boy in the 1970s.

Chester and District Standard:

Former vicar Charles Gordon Dickenson was jailed for historic child sex abuse.

The Diocese of Chester has accepted its failures, admitting that the letter should have been passed to the police for investigation a decade ago. Dickenson remained free to officiate in the diocese until his retirement in 2014.

The CDM against the Bishop of Chester is being brought by Sir Roger Singleton, interim safeguarding director at the Church and former chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s.

It has been confirmed that it will be considered by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu.

But Mr Ineson and another survivor, who wishes to remain anonymous, say that Mr Sentamu has himself been the subject of a CDM and allege he has previously ignored disclosures of abuse.

Mr Ineson was raped and abused aged 16 by former Bradford vicar Trevor Devamanikkam between 1984 and 1985.

He says his disclosures to the Church fell on deaf ears, leading him to file CDMs in 2016 against five bishops, as well as Mr Sentamu.

However, the complaints were never investigated by the Church because they were brought outside of the 12-month time limit.

Devamanikkam took his own life on June 6, 2017 – the day of his first court appearance.

Mr Ineson and others claim the Church of England (C of E) uses its own arbitrary 12-month rule to block investigations into historic sexual abuse that are more than a year old.

Indeed, permission is still being sought from the Church’s President of Tribunals to bring the CDM against Bishop Forster ‘out of time’.

Mr Ineson told this newspaper: “Victims of church abuse, including myself, have raised concern about Archbishop Sentamu handling the complaint into Bishop Forster as they say he is compromised as he himself has been subject to complaints that he ignored disclosures of abuse and left at least one priest abuser years to go unchecked.

“The priest in my case was eventually charged with six serious sexual offences and killed himself the day he was due in court. The church used the one-year rule to block any investigation into the archbishop and refuse to investigate him.”

In response, a spokesman for the office of the Archbishop of York said: “When a complaint comes to an Archbishop, he routinely considers with the benefit of advice, as to whether there are any circumstances which would make it inappropriate for him to deal with the complaint.

“If he considers there are, then he will ask the other Archbishop to deal with it. As the process has only just begun in this case– still awaiting decision on whether the complaint can be brought ‘out of time’ – there is nothing further to say on this procedure at the moment.”

Chester and District Standard:

Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

The second survivor said he had taken out a CDM against the Bishop of Durham over the handling of his own abuse case, only to see it dismissed by Mr Sentamu. However, he later received a 20-page response from the Bishop of Durham that reportedly expressed “bitter regret” at the way the case was handled.

Both he and Mr Ineson say they have heard of other complaints being either dismissed or no further action (NFA) taken.

The Standard asked the Church of England for statistics on the number of CDMs brought against bishops and archbishops, and their outcomes.

Survivors claim that no bishop or archbishop has ever been disciplined as a result of a CDM.

The only exception is former Bishop of Lewes and of Gloucester, Peter Ball, who was already serving jail time for sexually assaulting 18 teenagers and men between the 1970s and 1990s.

The offices of the Bishop of Salisbury and the Bishop of Lincoln were also approached for the CDM statistics as they are leading a review of safeguarding procedures in the Church.

The Church is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, and clear figures have not been provided. However, a C of E spokesman indicated that some were available in the annual reports of the Clergy Discipline Commission, which oversees CDMs.

These show that between 2015 and 2017 (the last year for which statistics are available) a total of 19 fresh complaints were made against bishops or archbishops. Some also carried over from previous years.

The reports state that 11 complaints were dismissed, two were NFA, and one ‘penalty by consent’ was imposed in 2015. There was also one ‘prohibition following conviction’, thought to relate to Peter Ball.

The outcomes of the remaining CDMs are not stated and the Church spokesman has not elaborated on these. No names are given in the annual reports.

Full statistics prior to 2015 are not available as complaints records held at Bishopthorpe Palace, the residence of the Archbishop of York, were destroyed in floods at the end of that year.

Chester and District Standard:

Records held at Bishopthorpe Palace near York were destroyed by flood water in 2015.

In 2010 the C of E published the outcome of its Past Case Review (PCR), which was a two-year investigation into historic allegations of abuse across all dioceses.

A subsequent review of the PCR by Sir Roger Singleton found the Church disregarded dozens of allegations.

The PCR examined more than 40,000 files but found that just 13 cases of alleged child sexual abuse warranted formal action.

In June last year, Sir Roger said he believed the Church “downplayed” the issue in public statements to avoid damage to its reputation.

But he also found “no evidence whatsoever of a deliberate attempt to mislead” or that anyone broke the law.

The second survivor who spoke to The Standard said he has little hope that Bishop Forster will be held accountable for failing to report Dickenson’s abuse in 2009, but added that he could be made a scapegoat.

He said: “This CDM looks like selective accountability. What about other bishops who walked away from disclosures? What about the bishops who presided over an industrial-scale whitewash in the Past Case Review period (2008 – 2010) in which many dozens of cases were quietly ignored? What about bishops who’ve denied disclosures and distanced themselves from their own inertia?

“The crisis of the senior layer of the Church of England is that they haven’t found a way of putting hands up to past mistakes and owning their own failure.”

He and survivors group MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) highlighted a report published on April 4 this year by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE).

A MACSAS spokesman said the document “illustrates the Church of England’s comprehensive failure in the treatment of victims of its own abuse”.

SCIE’s independent research indicates that fewer than one in five people who reported abuse in the church say they received a satisfactory response, and more than half never received any meaningful response at all.

The group spokesman said: “Those of us whose lives have been devastated by clergy abuse know this from long and bitter experience. We are victimized first by our abusers, and again by the church’s ‘defensive responses’ to criticism of its failings.

“For many years the Church of England has responded to the crisis of clergy abuse by saying ‘You can trust us. We’ve got this in hand’. The SCIE report confirms what we have known all along – that the church can no longer be trusted to manage disclosures of abuse.

“We repeat our call that this work should be handed over to a fully independent body.”

There is currently no UK law that requires the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse – although campaigners have been pushing for such legislation.

However, bishops at the head of their dioceses have responsibility for safeguarding issues and are expected to pass on intelligence about suspected criminal activity to the police.

The Church has stressed it treats all complaints seriously and, aside from the CDM, Bishop Forster’s actions in 2009 are also being investigated by its National Safeguarding Team (NST).

Chester and District Standard:

The Bishop of Chester has said he will make no further public comment until after the NST review.

Bishop Forster has led the Diocese of Chester since 1997 and is said to be the Church of England’s longest serving bishop. He is due to retire by March next year when he turns 70.

In a statement released earlier this month, he said he had delegated all safeguarding matters to the Bishop of Birkenhead until the end of the NST review, which is due to begin shortly.

He said: “I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

“An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

“The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese.

“I will continue in all other duties relating to my role of Bishop of Chester.

“I will not be making any further public comments in relation to this matter until the outcome of the independent review.”

Diocese of Chester twice covered up parish vicar’s abuse of young boy

Specialist lawyer’s concern over Diocese of Chester cover-up of child sex abuse

Bishop Peter Forster delegates safeguarding responsibility after cover-up reports

Bishop of Chester Dr Peter Forster could retire before outcome of abuse cover-up inquiry

Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) lodged against Bishop of Chester Peter Forster

Feb 20 2019 – “‘General Synod has no confidence in the Church of England’s capacity to regulate its own safeguarding culture'” – Martin Sewell – ‘AC’

2000px-Logo_of_the_Church_of_England.svg

http://archbishopcranmer.com/general-synod-no-confidence-safeguarding/

 

MARTIN SEWELL

“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”

COMMENTS

Len

“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…

Breaking News – “Archbishop admits Bishop Bell investigation has been ‘very painful process’, ahead of report into case” – Daily Telegraph – Hayley Dixon

Jan 24 2019 – “Archbishop admits Bishop Bell investigation has been ‘very painful process’, ahead of report into case” – The Daily Telegraph – Hayley Dixon

Hayley Dixon
The Telegraph 
Bishop George Bell was accused of abuse years after his death  - PA
Bishop George Bell was accused of abuse years after his death  – PA
More

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.