Tag Archives: The Bell Memorial – Christ Church Oxford

“Christ Church dean accused of mishandling child sexual assault case” – Cherwell – March 5 2020

“Christ Church Governing Body criticised for its attacks on the Dean” – Thinking Anglicans

Christ Church Governing Body criticised for its attacks on the Dean

https://cherwell.org/2020/03/05/christ-church-dean-accused-of-mishandling-child-sexual-assault-case/

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Christ Church Oxford

Christ Church dean accused of mishandling child sexual assault case

Martyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, has been accused of failing to correctly report the sexual assault of a minor.

Percy, embroiled in a long dispute with his own college, has denied the allegations in a statement to The Guardian.

On the 4th March, a statement on Christ Church’s website was posted, entitled “Update on Safeguarding”. It read: “On 7 February 2020, we received a media enquiry regarding the two Employment Tribunal claims, which the Dean has lodged against Christ Church.”

“This included an allegation that a former student had been sexually assaulted during their time at Christ Church, whilst still a minor. Upon further investigation, it is apparent that this allegation was disclosed to the Dean, but never reported by him to the police, the local authority designated officer, Christ Church’s safeguarding officers, or the Church of England’s safeguarding officer.

“This allegation has now been reported to the police. Internal investigations have subsequently raised serious concerns about the Dean’s handling of four separate matters reported to him. All relate to allegations of sexual abuse or assault, two involving a minor. On legal advice, we have also made a report to the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Office, and they have opened an investigation.

“There is no implication whatsoever that the Dean himself has been involved in any form of sexual misconduct.

“Protecting our students, pupils, staff, and all those who live, work, or study at Christ Church is our highest priority. We are assisting the Church of England and the police in their enquiries, and we are putting in place measures to ensure that our safeguarding obligations continue to be met.

“Christ Church’s Governing Body is fully committed to safeguarding and has robust policies and processes in place. Our thoughts are with any survivors of abuse affected by this news. If anyone requires immediate support, they should contact Christ Church or the police.”

Speaking to Cherwell, the Dean issued the following statement: “The statement on the College website will give rise to unfortunate speculation. For the avoidance of doubt, the Dean dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the Academic year ​​20​16-​17, and the information on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time. One of these individuals had already made a report to the police, which was already known ​to​the college officers concerned. A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the ​alleged assault ​on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position of this individual has not changed. No person making a disclosure was still a minor – all were over 21.

“Three of the cases took place before 2014, prior to the Dean taking up office. None of alleged perpetrators posed a safeguarding risk. None of the alleged perpetrators was a current employee of Christ Church at the time of these disclosures.

“The Dean raised concerns that college officers in 2017, and who should have had responsibility for safeguarding​,​ did not ​in fact ​know this, and had not been properly trained. ​ ​The Dean raised this as a matter of concern with the three individuals with the most responsibility for the legal compliance of the college. (i.e. statutory, welfare, etc.).  The job descriptions for the relevant college officers were changed in January 2018 to take account of the concerns raised by the instigation of the Dean. The college and cathedral regularly review their safeguarding practice, and are compliant with their statutory obligations, and our safeguarding leads are all properly trained.

The Police made a statement on this matter some weeks ago (20-02-20). This is what they said to me in writing: “We received a third party report of a rape on 13 February this year relating to an alleged incident at Christchurch sometime between 2010 and 2017. However, the alleged victim has never reported such an incident to police, and as such there is no line of enquiry and no current investigation. Due to Home Office guidelines, we have recorded the offence as reported, but the matter has been filed.”

In addition, the Dean told The Guardian he had “dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the academic year 2016-17, and the information on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time.

“A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the alleged assault on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position has not changed.”

In a comprehensive response to the Dean’s statement, Christ Church issued the following rebuttal:

“1. “For the avoidance of doubt, the Dean dealt correctly with three historic cases of reported sexual assault in the aca­demic year 2016-17, and the infor­ma­tion on these were shared with the appropriate college officers at the time.”

The Dean has told Christ Church that four historic cases were reported to him in the calendar year of 2017. Christ Church’s Safeguarding Officers were not informed by the Dean at the time about three of these reports of sexual assault – nor was any other college officer.

“2. “One of these individuals had already made a report to the police, which was already known to the college officers concerned.”

No college officer was informed by the Dean about any police report at the time, with regard to any of these four disclosures.

“3. “A fourth historic disclosure was made by an individual who had never reported the matter to the police, and only agreed to talk about the alleged assault on the condition that there was no further disclosure. Their position of this individual has not changed.”

A fourth case was mentioned, regarding a former student, to a Safeguarding Officer, but with no indication that it involved an individual who was a minor at the time of the alleged assault.

“4. “No person making a disclosure was a minor — all were over 21.”

According to what the Dean has told us, two of the survivors were minors at the time of the alleged abuse/assault.

“5.  “Three of the cases took place before 2014, prior to the Dean taking up office.”

Four cases were disclosed to the Dean, according to his own account, in the calendar year of 2017.

“6. “None of alleged perpetrators posed a safeguarding risk.”

Apart from the Dean, we are not aware of anyone at Christ Church who has any information about any of the alleged perpetrators, and therefore we are unable to assess whether there is any safeguarding risk.

“7. “The Christ Church statement omits to note that the police have reported that no investigation is being pursued.”

Thames Valley Police has asked the Dean for more information with regard to the perpetrator of the recently-reported alleged assault against a minor. Christ Church is not aware that the Dean has responded to this request.

This is the latest instalment in the continuing clash between Martyn Percy and his colleagues. The origins of the dispute are contentious, with the Dean claiming a hostile response to this efforts to modernise the college. His opponents in the ongoing battle cite a request for a pay rise.

After a suspension in 2018, Martyn Percy was reinstated following an internal tribunal, in August of last year. His case will be heard in an Employment Tribunal in 2021.

  • IICSA Transcript – Day 1 – Monday – July 23 2018 – Fiona Scolding QC

     

    Page 90

    MR GIFFIN: Chair, members of the panel, the Archbishops’ Council is grateful for this opportunity to make some brief opening remarks….In 2015, after Ball, as you have heard, pleaded guilty to offences and was sentenced for them, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote to individuals known to have been abused by Ball to offer his apologies and the church made a public statement, including these words, which bear repeating. Shall I pause?

    FIONA SCOLDING QC: I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what is
    going on. I will ask Mr Fulbrook to go and see if
    whatever is happening can be desisted from immediately.
    MR GIFFIN: Shall I continue, chair? I will, if I may,
    repeat my previous words….

    Page 171 & 172

    REVD GRAHAM SAWYER: Let me make this very clear. The sexual abuse that was
    perpetrated upon me by Bishop Peter Ball pales into
    insignificance when compared to the enduringly cruel and
    sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by
    officials, both lay and ordained, in the
    Church of England, and I know from the testimony of
    other people who have got in touch with me over the last
    five or ten years that what I have experienced is not
    dissimilar to the experience of so many others, and
    I use those words “cruel and sadistic”, because I think
    that’s how they behave.

    FIONA SCOLDING QC: How much of that do you attribute to the lingering
    effect, shall we say, of Peter Ball, because the events
    you describe sort of postdated Peter Ball’s caution and
    resignation?

    REVD GRAHAM SAWYER: Well, there’s an expression used in Australia to refer
    to the bench of bishops, they don’t refer to the bench
    of bishops, but they refer to the “purple circle”,
    and the purple circle exists pretty much in every national
    church within Anglicanism. It no doubt exists in other
    episcopally-led churches. They support one another in
    a sort of club-like way.
    If anyone attacks one of them, they will, as
    a group, as a sort of collective conscience and in
    action, seek to destroy the person who is making
    complaints about one individual.
    Now, don’t take my testimony alone from this. There
    is former — in fact, the recently retired bishop of
    Newcastle in NSW, Australia, who was a victim of sexual
    abuse there, and he described his treatment — he said
    it is like an ecclesiastical protection racket. That is
    the culture within Anglicanism and no doubt within other
    episcopally-led church. It is an ecclesiastical
    protection racket, and anyone who seeks in any way to
    threaten the reputation of the church as an institution
    has to be destroyed. That is the primary thing, and
    that is the culture within Anglicanism.

     

  • March 12 2020 – From The Archives [July 24 2019 – Luther Pendragon – “‘Professional Bullies’ and the Church of England” – ‘The Bell Society’ – Richard W. Symonds]

    Luther-Pendragon

    EIO-new

    March 13 2020 – From The Archives [July 23 2108 – Transcript – Day 1 – Monday – July 23 2018]

    • Excerpts – Fiona Scolding QC
    • This case study will seek answers to the following
      questions:
      (1) why did Bishop Peter Ball escape detection as an
      abuser, despite, as it has now emerged, the fact that he
      made sexual advances to a significant number of young
      men who came within his ambit of influence?
      (2) how did the church permit him to run a scheme
      25 where young people came to stay with him for extended
      periods of time in his home without any supervision or
      oversight and without any real sense of what was
      happening or who was there over a more than ten-year
      period whilst he was a suffragan bishop?
      (3) why was he given a caution, rather than
      prosecuted, for the offending that the police
      investigated in 1992/1993 in respect of Neil Todd and
      others? Why were other complaints brought at that time
      not prosecuted or subject to any form of disposal at
      that time?
      (4) why was Peter Ball represented by a lawyer
      during the criminal proceedings in 1992 who was also the
      diocesan registrar, that is, an official lawyer for the
      diocese in religious matters? This individual discussed
      the case and Peter Ball’s defence with various senior
      members of the church during the course of
      the investigation. Why was this potential conflict of
      interest not identified or acted upon?
      (5) was it wrong for the church to become involved
      in seeking to defend Peter Ball by employing a private
      detective on his behalf?
      (6) were the church, police or prosecution put under
      undue and improper pressure by individuals who held
      positions of power and influence within society to try
      and quash the criminal allegations made against
      Peter Ball and return him to ministry?
      (7) should a caution ever have been administered?
      (8) why was he not subject to any disciplinary
      action by the church until 2015? Were the disciplinary
      powers of the church at the time in question, 1992
      through to 2015, fit for purpose to manage the sorts of
      allegations that this case study raises? Why, given the
      frustrations expressed by senior individuals within
      Lambeth Palace about Peter Ball’s lack of insight into
      his own offending behaviour was no risk assessment
      process undertaken of him until 2009?
      (9) why was he allowed to return to public ministry
      and even granted permission to visit schools and
      undertake confirmations in the light of what was known
      about his offending behaviour within the church at the
      time?
      (10) why didn’t the church refer letters received
      from various individuals which made allegations similar
      to those that Neil Todd had made to the police
      in December 1992 and why in fact did it take until 2010
      for the majority of those letters to be passed to the
      police?
      (11) was the internal investigation conducted by the
      Church of England in 1992/1993 adequate?
      (12) why did the prosecution decide to accept the
      guilty pleas entered into by Peter Ball in 2015 and why
      were other offences not pursued to trial?
      (13) would the church approach a similar matter
      concerning a senior member of its ranks in a like manner
      today and, if not, what steps have been nut in place to
      create a consistent approach to dealing with such
      allegations?
      (14) what steps does the church, police, Crown
      Prosecution Service and society need to undertake to
      overcome the problems that this case study may
      demonstrate?
      We have sought and obtained evidence from Peter Ball
      himself. He has provided two witness statements to the
      inquiry. We have received medical evidence that he is
      too unwell to give us evidence either in person or by
      way of videolink. Both his witness statements will be
      placed upon the website. He has provided an apology in
      the second of those witness statements and has
      identified that he has neither been open nor shown
      penitence in the past. He also identifies that
      previously he has not had the courage to be forthright
      about his sexuality that maybe he should have had…….

    Page 90

    MR GIFFIN: Chair, members of the panel, the
    Archbishops’ Council is grateful for this opportunity to
    make some brief opening remarks. The inquiry of course
    heard longer submissions from us at the start and finish
    of the Chichester case study, and we also filed detailed
    written submissions at the close of the Chichester
    hearings, and all of those are publicly available and
    I needn’t repeat any of the detail of them now.
    Rather, I shall confine myself to three matters.
    The first and foremost is to say, clearly, that the
    church is sorry and ashamed. At the Chichester
    hearings, the Archbishops’ Council offered an
    unqualified apology to those vulnerable people, children
    and others, whose lives have been damaged by abuse, and
    who were not cared for and protected by the church as
    they should have been. We repeat that apology now,
    specifically to those who suffered abuse at the hands of
    Peter Ball, and the families and others who have been
    affected by that abuse.
    In 2015, after Ball, as you have heard, pleadedguilty to offences and was sentenced for them, the
    Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, wrote to
    individuals known to have been abused by Ball to offer
    his apologies and the church made a public statement,
    including these words, which bear repeating. Shall
    I pause?
    MS SCOLDING: I’m terribly sorry. I don’t know what is
    going on. I will ask Mr Fulbrook to go and see if
    whatever is happening can be desisted from immediately.
    MR GIFFIN: Shall I continue, chair? I will, if I may,
    repeat my previous words….

    Page 99

    Mr Bourne

    Now, this does not excuse the error of not passing
    on the letters, but the inquiry will see that the police
    back then had abundant evidence of a wider picture of
    Peter Ball’s abusive activity and the inquiry can be
    reassured that the addition of one further allegation
    would not have altered that picture in any significant
    25 way.
    My second comment on Dame Moira’s report is that, on
    three key points, it will benefit from some
    clarification. Unfortunately, those key points have
    attracted as much attention as anything else in the
    report. They are the references to collusion, cover-up
    and deliberate concealment.
    In fairness to Dame Moira, her report is actually
    expressed in very measured terms; so measured, in fact,
    that any conclusions drawn about collusion, cover-up or
    deliberate concealment are not easy to pin down. The
    problem, however, is that the report’s use of those
    words has already had serious consequences, and that’s
    not surprising because there is a crucial difference
    between mistakes, however blameworthy, and
    conspiratorial acts carried out for a guilty purpose.
    We have no doubt that this inquiry will wish to
    distinguish carefully between those two things.
    There are, therefore, questions for Dame Moira Gibb
    about those specific areas. All I will add now in
    opening is that Lord Carey’s hope is that this week’s
    hearing will make some important matters clearer for
    everyone. The clearest possible understanding is, of
    course, for the benefit of all of the public and
    especially for victims and survivors.
    Chair, thank you…….

    Reverend Graham Sawyer

    Page 171/172

    A. Let me make this very clear. The sexual abuse that was
    perpetrated upon me by Bishop Peter Ball pales into
    insignificance when compared to the enduringly cruel and
    sadistic treatment that has been meted out to me by
    officials, both lay and ordained, in the
    Church of England, and I know from the testimony of
    other people who have got in touch with me over the last
    five or ten years that what I have experienced is not
    dissimilar to the experience of so many others, and
    I use those words “cruel and sadistic”, because I think
    that’s how they behave.

    Q. How much of that do you attribute to the lingering
    effect, shall we say, of Peter Ball, because the events
    you describe sort of postdated Peter Ball’s caution and
    resignation?

    A. Well, there’s an expression used in Australia to refer
    to the bench of bishops, they don’t refer to the bench
    of bishops, but they refer to the “purple circle”, and the purple circle exists pretty much in every national
    church within Anglicanism. It no doubt exists in other
    episcopally-led churches. They support one another in
    a sort of club-like way.
    If anyone attacks one of them, they will, as
    a group, as a sort of collective conscience and in
    action, seek to destroy the person who is making
    complaints about one individual.
    Now, don’t take my testimony alone from this. There
    is former — in fact, the recently retired bishop of
    Newcastle in NSW, Australia, who was a victim of sexual
    abuse there, and he described his treatment — he said
    it is like an ecclesiastical protection racket. That is
    the culture within Anglicanism and no doubt within other
    episcopally-led church. It is an ecclesiastical
    protection racket, and anyone who seeks in any way to
    threaten the reputation of the church as an institution
    has to be destroyed. That is the primary thing, and
    that is the culture within Anglicanism.

 

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Dear Editor

 
Last Friday at Christ Church Oxford, by the altar dedicated to wartime Bishop George Bell of Chichester, a special service was held to commemorate those killed who resisted Hitler within Germany – including the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
 
In July 1945 a similar service of remembrance took place in London, at Holy Trinity Brompton Road, three months after Bonhoeffer’s execution by the Nazi regime.
 
Paying tribute to his murdered friend, Bishop Bell said: 
 
“Dietrich has gone…our debt to him and all others similarly murdered is immense…….he represents…the moral and political revolt of the human conscience against injustice and cruelty”
 
May we listen to history speak. 
 
 
Yours sincerely
 
 
Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society

July 19 2019 – Charles Moore on Bishop George Bell and a Special Commemoration Service at Christ Church, Oxford – Friday evening – 19/07/2019

download (29)

Charles Moore

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“The Spectator’s Notes” – Charles Moore – ‘The Spectator’ – 20 July 2019 – Page 9

Seventy-five years ago on Saturday, the July plot failed. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg placed a bomb in a briefcase next to Hitler in the conference room of the Wolf’s Lair, but someone moved the briefcase a little. When the bomb detonated, the heavy conference table shielded Hitler from the blast. Stauffenberg and many other conspirators were caught. He was executed early the next morning.

This Friday, in Christ Church, Oxford, a special service will commemorate the plot [Stauffenberg’s failed attempt to kill Hitler 75 years ago], and all those who resisted Nazism in Germany. It will centre on the altar dedicated to George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, and the main external supporter of German Christian resistance to Hitler.

In Sweden in May 1942, Bell met a young German pastor called Hans Schoünfeld [Schonfeld] and the famous theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would later be executed in Flossenbürg concentration camp. The former disclosed to him the extent of the resisters’ plot to overthrow Hitler, giving him many of the key names. Charged with this information, Bell went to see Anthony Eden, the foreign secretary. Could the Allies help, with assurances that they would negotiate a settlement with a new German state that renounced aggression and embraced Christian principles? Writing to Eden afterwards, Bell asked: ‘If there are men in Germany also ready to wage war against the monstrous tyranny of the Nazis from within, is it right to discourage or ignore them?’ Eden was suspicious that the moves by the churchmen might be untrustworthy ‘peace-feelers’, which Hitler’s spies were bound to know about. Besides, the Allies were edging towards the doctrine of unconditional surrender. Bell’s efforts came to nothing. The July plotters acted without exterior help. They failed, and died horribly.

Controversy about this will never cease. It is easy to sympathise both with the pleading of the Bishop and with the scepticism of the foreign secretary. But one has to be impressed by Bell’s striking way of putting it: ‘Germany was the first country in Europe to be occupied by the Nazis’, and so its people needed liberation as much as any other. At the service will be read out the words of Helmuth James von Moltke, a resister to the Nazis who opposed the assassination of Hitler on the grounds that this would make him a martyr, but was executed for treason all the same. In his farewell letter to his wife, von Moltke wrote: ‘In the last analysis, the dramatic thing about the trial was this … what we had discussed were questions of the practical-ethical demands of Christianity. Nothing more; it is for this, and this alone, that we have been condemned …Your husband … stood … not as a Protestant, not as a landed proprietor, not as a nobleman, not as a Prussian, not as a German — but as a Christian and as nothing else…’

Faithful readers will know that this column has defended Bishop Bell from a charge of child abuse which the Church of England chose to accept as true 70 years after the alleged acts. A full inquiry by Lord Carlile proved that the processes used to investigate this claim had been worthless. The Church was forced to accept this. It refused, however, to pursue the logic of Carlile’s finding and declare Bell innocent until proved guilty. The Archbishop of Canterbury stated that a ‘significant cloud’ still hangs over Bell; but the cloud is not evidenced. By chance, I was in Chichester for a family gathering last weekend. We stayed at 4 Canon Lane, a guesthouse which was, until the accusation, called George Bell House. His name was then painted out. I was sorely tempted to paint it back again, but realised this would upset the blameless staff, so contented myself with expressing my thoughts in the visitors’ book. I also reminded myself of the geography of the Bishop’s Palace. ‘Carol’, Bell’s accuser, alleged that Bell would collect her from his kitchen and take her upstairs to his study, where he abused her. In fact, the kitchen she mentioned belonged to the theological college next door, and Bell had no access. His study was elsewhere.

On the crenellations which surround the cathedral’s impressive Victorian spire, we spotted three peregrines looking dramatic against the evening sun. The return of birds of prey is an attractive feature of modern times. The downside is that more raptors means fewer songbirds.

~ Charles Moore

December 20 2017 – “Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking” – The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy – Dean of Christ Church, Oxford [Christian Today]

https://www.christiantoday.com/article/martyn-percy-why-the-churchs-response-to-the-george-bell-inquiry-is-so-shocking/121818.htm

Martyn Percy: Why the Church’s response to the George Bell inquiry is so shocking

‘If one imagines for a moment that Bishop Bell were one’s own father, the point is clearly made. If a system is not good enough for our own fathers, then it is not good enough for anyone.’ (paragraph 46, p. 12, Bishop George Bell Independent Review).

The long-awaited Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case, conducted by Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE, QC was published on December 15. As one of the campaigners for transparency in this case – namely for the Church of England to disclose exactly how it reached its decisions in relation to a single complaint of sexual abuse made against Bell, decades after his death – Alex Carlile’s Review is a fulsome vindication of the need for a complete overhaul of the practice of the Church. The report shows that justice was not served – either to Bishop Bell, or to the woman known as ‘Carol’. The report shows – damningly, alas – that the entire process by the Church of England was conducted through the lens of reputational management. Appropriate legal expertise was not used. Assumptions were made: guilty unless proven innocent. Dreadful and egregious errors of procedure were made, revealing a culture of shoddy amateurism. When challenged on this, the evolving debacle was further compounded by assertions that a ‘proper’ process and ‘robust’ investigation had been undertaken. They hadn’t. Not remotely.

Bishop George Bell
Courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell was the former Bishop of Chichester and considered a hero for his opposition to indiscriminate Allied bombing of Germany

It is crystal clear from reading the report that the accusations were badly handled from the beginning, and that once the accusations were in the hands of the ‘Core Group’, members not only lacked commitment to prioritise their participation but lamentably failed in their duty to determine the facts. The whole process administered by the Church of England then descended into a tragic, incompetent farce. In all this, some are continuing to insist that Bishop Bell was, in all probability, guilty – when in the end, there is still only the testimony of one person, with no corroboration.

Yet it is clear, reading between the lines of Lord Carlile’s report, that in investigating how the Church handled the allegations they discovered enough to challenge their veracity. In what follows, therefore, I highlight ten key findings from Lord Carlile’s Independent Review, and suggest that the Church of England resolves to address these as a matter of urgency. [Martin Sewell also analyses the Independent Review here – Ed]

Martyn Percy
Martyn Percy is the Dean of Christ Church Oxford and a respected theologian in the Church of England.

‘It follows that, even when the alleged perpetrators have died, there should be methodical and sufficient investigations into accusations levelled against them….I have concluded that the Church of England failed to institute or follow a procedure which respected the rights of both sides. The Church…has in effect oversteered in this case. In other words, there was a rush to judgement…’ (para. 17-18, p.5). The Church of England acted rashly and hastily, and it needs to correct this knee-jerk reaction in future, if justice is to be served. In the case of Bell, injustice has been manifestly perpetrated.

  1. ‘…in this case the Church adopted a procedure more akin to the second extreme: that is to say, when faced with a serious and apparently credible allegation, the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or enquiry. I have concluded that this was an inappropriate and impermissible approach and one which should not be followed in the future…in my view, the Church concluded that the needs of a living complainant who, if truthful, was a 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…’ (para. 43-44, p. 12). The Church of England essentially assumed Bishop George Bell was ‘guilty until proven innocent’. The Church of England needs to ask how it protects those who are the victims of false allegations.
  2. ‘Importantly, the Church should not put its own reputation before that of the dead…the complainant is not a “survivor”…’ (para. 52, p. 13/14). The ‘Core Group’ made dreadful assumptions. Namely, that no-one who had worked with Bell was still alive. They did not contact Bell’s relatives (even though George and Henrietta had no children of their own). The ‘Core Group’ put the reputational risk to the Church as a higher priority than serving justice, and getting to the truth of the matter. The complainant is repeatedly referred to by the Church as a ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’ – but no facts or testimony have come to light, other than the claims made by the complainant – that would corroborate the appropriate use of such pejorative labels.
  3. In paragraph 138, p. 32 we are told there was no real police enquiry into the case. Yet the Church of England had tried to ‘spin’ this, to suggest that any enquiry would have found Bell guilty.
  4. ‘…despite mention of the importance of ensuring that the deceased accused person received a fair hearing, absolutely nothing was done to ensure that his living relatives were informed of the allegations, let alone asked for or offered guidance. Nor were any steps taken to ensure that Bishop Bell’s interests were considered actively by an individual nominated for the purpose. I regret that Bishop Bell’s reputation, and the need for a rigorous factual analysis of the case against him, were swept up by a tide focused on settling Carol’s claim[s] and the perceived imperative of public [reputation]…’ (para. 142, p.33). The Church of England, in other words, only listened to the complainant, and took those accusations at face value. No system of justice in the entire world could ever regard this as fair, decent or true. The process run by the Church of England has more in common with a trial scene from Alice in Wonderland. No system of defence or justice for Bell was designed or enacted (para. 155).
  5. Paragraph 178, pages 46-48. Professor Maden, an expert on ‘false memory syndrome’, comments extensively on the case. He closes his remarks by stating that ‘I have no doubt that [the complainant] is sincere in her beliefs. Nevertheless it remains my view that the possibility of false memories in this case cannot be excluded. The facts are for the Court to determine. I do not believe that psychiatric or other expert evidence is likely to be of further assistance in establishing whether or not these allegations are true…’. Some members of the ‘Core Group’ did not read the whole of Professor Maden’s report, so ‘a fuller evidential investigation’ that might have been called for to test the complainant’s claim never occurred. The ‘Core Group’ even failed to contact the complainant’s wider family (whom ‘Carol’ said she was close to), and who could have perhaps provided corroborating or dissenting testimony.
  6. Two completely credible witnesses came forward. A woman identified as ‘Pauline’ and Canon Adrian Carey (paras. 214-228, pages 54-56). Neither corroborates Carol’s testimony. Neither can recall such a young girl being present with the regularity and frequency ‘Carol’ claims. Carey, Bell’s Chaplain, lived in the Bishop’s Palace with Henrietta and George Bell. Pauline, a child who lived in the palace and played in the gardens during the same years that ‘Carol’ claims that her abuse took place, does not recall any child like ‘Carol’: ‘Pauline and her mother lived in the palace itself. They shared a bedroom on an upper floor, and they had a sitting room of their own. Pauline went to school locally, to an Infants’ School then a Primary School. She passed the 11 Plus. At that point her mother obtained a job in another household and they left the palace. She remembers and named correctly other staff working in the palace and living there or in the grounds. She remembered the name of [the person Carol visited]. However, she did not recall Carol. This does not mean that Carol was not there from time to time: however, if Pauline is correct it would suggest that [Carol’s] visits were not so frequent as to have made her a significant presence…’.
  7. Despite the lack of evidence against Bell – remember, still just one complainant, and the ‘Core Team’ having failed to take account of relevant expertise (i.e., legal, psychiatric, historians, Bell’s biographer, etc.), or contacted living witnesses to test the claims made by ‘Carol’ see paras. 248-252, p. 64) – nonetheless, ‘Carol, and the wider public, were left in no doubt whatsoever that it was accepted that Bishop Bell was guilty of what was alleged against him. The statement provided the following conclusions: (i) The allegations had been investigated, and a proper process followed. (ii) The allegations had been proved; therefore (iii) There was no doubt that Bishop Bell had abused Carol…’. (para. 237, page 61). Lord Carlile later adds: ‘I regret that the Core Group failed to carry out sufficient investigation into the facts’ (para. 244, p.63).
  8. The ‘Core Group’ that investigated the case against Bishop Bell was found to have been ‘set up in an unmethodical and unplanned way, with neither terms of reference nor any clear direction as to how it would operate. As a result, it became a confused and unstructured process, as several members confirmed. Some members explicitly made it clear to me that they had no coherent notion of their roles or what was expected of them. There was no consideration of the need for consistency of attendance or membership. The members did not all see the same documents, nor all the documents relevant to their task. There was no organised or valuable inquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. Indeed, the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on his guilt of what Carol alleged…’. (para. 254, p. 65). You can only read this as a vote of total ‘non-confidence’ in the Core Group. It is not so much a case of what few things they got wrong, as discovering that they got almost nothing right. This was a complete failure of process.
  9. So Lord Carlile concludes: ‘in my judgement the decision to settle the case in the form and manner followed was indefensibly wrong’ (para. 258, p. 66).
    Bishop George Bell
    Pic courtesy of Jimmy James Bishop George Bell

    Since the publication of the Carlile Report, the Archbishop, Church of England National Safeguarding Team and the Bishop of Chichester have all been defensive. They recognise that there are criticisms. But they continue to speak and behave as though they got the right result – merely via a flawed methodology. I am reminded of the quote from Alan Partridge: ‘You know, a lot of people forget that for the first three days, the cruise on The Titanic was a really enjoyable experience.’

On the October 21, 2015, I had been rung by the then Secretary-General of the Archbishops’ Council and of the General Synod of the Church of England, Sir William Fittall. It was Fittall who told me, over the phone, that a ‘thorough investigation’ had implicated Bishop George Bell in an historic sex-abuse case, and that the Church had ‘paid compensation to the victim’. Fittall added that he was tipping me off, as he knew we had an altar in the Cathedral dedicated to Bell, and that Bell was a distinguished former member of Christ Church.

Fittall asked what we would do, in the light of the forthcoming media announcements. I explained that Christ Church is an academic institution, and we tend to make decisions based on evidence, having first weighed and considered its quality. Fittall replied that the evidence was ‘compelling and convincing’, and that the investigation into George Bell has been ‘lengthy, professional and robust’. I asked for details, as I said I could not possibly make a judgement without sight of such evidence. I was told that such evidence could not be released. So, Christ Church kept faith with Bell, and the altar, named after him, remains in exactly the same spot it has occupied for over fifteen years, when it was first carved.

What we now learn from Independent Review of the Bishop George Bell Case is that evidence against Bell is, at best, flimsy. Charles Moore, writing in the Daily Telegraph, (December 16, 2017) notes that the Church of England:

…would only be reverting to the principle upon which justice is based – that a person is innocent unless proved guilty. It says it accepts the report’s finding that its procedures were wrong. In morality and logic, it must concede that its decision to destroy Bell was wrong too. This, I had expected, was what Archbishop Welby would now do. He is a brave man and I know, from conversations with him, that he is deeply anguished both by child abuse and by false accusations of child abuse. He tries harder than most princes of the Church to get alongside those who suffer.

Yet this is what he said on Friday. After acknowledging the failure of Church procedures, the Archbishop spoke of Bell’s ‘great achievement’ as a defender of the persecuted and added: ‘We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name … He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.’

I’m afraid this is a shocking answer. The Archbishop must know that what people now think about the accusations depends very much on him. His own report tells him they were believed on grossly inadequate grounds. Does he cling to that belief or not? He invites us to balance the good and evil deeds of men; but there is no balance here. The good Bell did is proved. The evil is an uncorroborated accusation believed by the religious authorities because it makes their life easier. We have been here before – in the life of Jesus, and in the reason for his unjust death.

Bishop George Bell was one of the towering figures of twentieth century Anglicanism. He was a saintly man, of prodigious theological calibre. He befriended the Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller other leaders of the German Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer’s last letter, before he was executed by the Nazis in 1945, was to Bell. Niemöller sought out Bell as soon as the Second World War ended. And it was Niemöller, you may recall, who is remembered for this quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

But many of us did speak out for Bell – because of the pitiable processes and procedures he has been subjected to. This must now be fully overturned by the Church of England, and Bell’s name and reputation fully restored. No member of the ‘Core Team’ investigating Bell would ever allow their own deceased father to be treated like this. For a Father in God such as Bishop George Bell to be subjected to such reputational traducing, long after his death, requires an unambiguous capitulation on the part those who bear responsibility for this.

The Very Revd. Professor Martyn Percy, is Dean of Christ Church, Oxford.