Bishop Bell – Complete justice denied after second inquiry
For three years Alistair Lexden has been part of a campaign to establish the truth about allegations of child sex abuse made, long after his death over sixty years ago, against the great Anglican Bishop, George Bell.
He spoke at length about the Church of England’s deeply unsatisfactory handling of the allegations in a Lords debate on 20 December (see below). The Church was gravely at fault in paying compensation of some £15,000 in 2015 to a complainant on the basis of her uncorroborated testimony after a deeply flawed internal inquiry, on which Lord Carlile of Berriew QC produced a damning report, published in December 2017.
A second inquiry by a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, Timothy Briden, was established at the beginning of 2018, after a further allegation had been made. His report, which was published on 24 January, stated that this allegation, and one other which also surfaced in 2018, were “ unfounded”. Here justice has been done.
The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the Briden report and praised Bishop Bell as “ a remarkable role model”. He also “ apologised unreservedly for the mistakes” made during the investigation of the first allegation, but he nevertheless stood by the decision to accept the wholly uncorroborated complaint despite the damning Carlile report—as a result of which Bishop Bell’s towering reputation has been traduced.
The overall interests of justice required the Archbishop to admit that the first allegation was not proved and Bishop Bell is therefore innocent. He refuses to do this. Desmond Browne QC, a former Chairman of the Bar Council, has followed everything that has happened since 2015. He said on 24 January: “ What is now clear is that the investigations by two experienced lawyers have established George Bell’s innocence. But not once has the Archbishop of Canterbury offered Bell the presumption of innocence.” Justin Welby has failed in his clear duty.
March 5 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Monday March 5]
March 16 2018 – IICSA Highlights – March 5 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Monday March 5
Page 129 -Paras. 2-19 – Richard Scorer [Counsel for the complainants, victims and survivors represented by Slater & Gordon]: “…this is not simply an issue of attitude but of competence too. This is a point which has been made powerfully by Martin Sewell, who is both a lay member of the General Synod and a retired child protection lawyer. He points out that diocesan staff are typically trained in theology and Canon law, not in safeguarding or child protection law. As a result, he says, many of those making a decision about safeguarding in the Church of England have no credible claim to expertise in this increasingly complex situation. Interestingly, Mr Sewell makes that point both in relation to the treatment of complainants of abuse, but also in regard to the mishandling, in his view, of the George Bell case. He sees the failings on both of those aspects as two sides of the same coin, a fundamental problem, in his view, being a lack of competence and specialist knowledge, particularly legal knowledge and experience gained in a practical safeguarding context”
March 9 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Thursday March 8
Page 154 – Paras 1-25 – Roger Meekings: There are one or two things I would like to say, chair. I think there have been a number of crises and difficulties that the Church of England have experienced, and I think it probably is time for some fairly radical action to be taken by the church, and I know they are thinking carefully about that, but I think my problem is the amount of time it does seem to be taking. I would like to ask a question, really, about whether they should be stripped of their exemption under the Equality Act to help stamp out a culture of abuse and homophobia and sexism, because under the 2010 Act, the church, as a religious institution, has special permission to insist that those it appoints are Christians, but it can also discriminate over sex, sexuality, marital history and gender identity if they conflict with strongly held religious convictions.
Secondly, I would probably support the development now of an independent safeguarding body. Operationally, I’m surprised that the church has not already set up a national database to record cases of concern and to upload case notes and allow a proper audit trail. I think I said in my witness statement I think that the Clergy Discipline Measure does require a complete overhaul to be able to hold people to account.
March 15 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 14
“The area which he [Lord Carlile] has rightly…identified is that there was nobody there [in the Core Group] to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again…is something that I think was wrong…” ~ The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner – Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018 – Page 21 Paras 14-18
Fiona Scolding QC and Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner
Q. Can I turn now to the allegations made against
3 George Bell. An independent review was published
4 in December by Lord Carlile of Berriew. Paul, would you
5 mind getting that up? It is not in your bundle, chair
6 and panel, so we will get it up on screen. ANG000152,
7 Paul. Then we need page 64, which should be section K.
8 This is some conclusions that I am going to ask you
9 to comment upon that Lord Carlile made in respect of
10 the core group.
11 Maybe if I explain, what happened in respect of
12 the George Bell case is that something called a core
13 group was set up, which was a group of individuals. Did
14 that include you? I can’t actually remember?
15 A. I was present at some meetings, but not at others.
16 Q. So there were a number of people — so Colin Perkins was
17 involved, and we will hear some quite detailed evidence
18 from him about his view about the Carlile Report. So
19 I am not going to take you through it in any detail.
20 I just want to deal with this bit, as you were a member
21 of the core group at some point in time.
22 A. Yes.
23 Q. They met regularly in order to, firstly, investigate,
24 and, secondly, to reach conclusions.
25 There is criticism of the core group. It is
1 described by Lord Carlile as “unmethodical and
2 unplanned” and “it was a confused and unstructured
3 process at which members had no coherent notion of their
4 roles and what was expected of them”. Would you like to
5 comment upon that? Is that your understanding?
6 A. These are stringent and harsh observations which largely
7 we accept. We were in a situation here of breaking new
8 ground. The formation of a core group was something
9 which we were unfamiliar with, which has subsequently
10 been regulated for us, and we were also, of course, very
11 aware of working in the context of a serious criminal
12 allegation against a person of a massive international
13 and national reputation.
14 So I think the failures of consistency, of sense of
15 purpose and how we were to function, those
16 allegations — those criticisms are valid against us.
17 I don’t think, however, that that means we were
18 cavalier or unaware of the seriousness of
19 the responsibilities that we were trying to carry out.
20 Q. Paul, could we turn to the next page, because that’s in
21 fact where my quotation comes from. Yes. So we have
22 254(i). The other matter I want to put to you is, it
23 further comments down at (v):
24 “There was no organised or valuable enquiry or
25 investigation into the merits of the allegations, and
Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018
6 (Pages 21 to 24)
1 the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or
3 What is your response to that?
4 A. The question of an organised or valuable inquiry is
5 something of a value judgment, I think, and we certainly
6 didn’t feel that there was no serious inquiry into that
7 which was undertaken through our insurers and their
8 legal representative in whom we had considerable trust
9 and regard and who Lord Carlile also recognises as
10 a responsible and able person.
11 I see him to say that the standpoint of Bishop Bell
12 was never given parity or proportionality. It was
13 certainly given proportionality. We understood
14 absolutely that was the case. I think the area which
15 he’s rightly also identified is that there was nobody
16 there to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again, with
17 the benefit of hindsight, is something that I think was
18 wrong and we have welcomed —
19 Q. That’s (ix), chair and panel, just so that you know.
20 A. We would recognise it would represent best practice now
21 in the ways in which we have outlined our procedures.
22 Q. Can I ask, why was the decision taken to issue a public
23 statement about the George Bell case, because that’s
24 something that Lord Carlile does also critique?
25 A. Yes.
1 Q. Perhaps you would like to explain?
2 A. We were very aware of working in the light of
3 the recommendations in the interim report of
4 the archbishop’s commissaries, which had been very clear
5 that no settlement with a survivor should include
6 a gagging clause. Of course you could say there’s
7 a difference between a gagging clause and making
8 a public statement, but it was very strongly felt that
9 to settle and to write a letter of apology and to make
10 no public statement, with no indication as to whether or
11 not those actions would become public, would look very
12 quickly like cover-up. Therefore, we felt that there was
13 an obligation on us to be open about what it was that we
14 were proposing to do.
15 Q. If I can just identify that Lord Carlile at
16 paragraphs 267 and 268 of his report — ANG000152, Paul,
17 at page 68, says:
18 “I am sure that the archbishop does not think it
19 appropriate to support the publication of what may be an
20 unjustified and probably irreparable criticism of
21 anyone, whether a celebrated bishop or not.”
22 And at 268:
23 “I regard this as a case, perhaps a relatively rare
24 one, in which steps should and could have been taken to
25 retain full confidentiality, with a clear underlying
1 basis for explaining why it was done. For Bishop Bell’s
2 reputation to be catastrophically affected in the way
3 that occurred was just wrong.”
4 Do you have any comment you wish to make about that?
5 A. The first comment I would want to make is that, I think
6 we have learnt a painful lesson about the difficulty of
7 communicating through the media a very fine legal
8 nuance, and it’s recognised by Lord Carlile that we
9 never asserted the guilt of Bishop Bell, but to
10 communicate that in terms that the general public are
11 going to understand through the media is a very
12 difficult thing to do. Therefore, I think he does raise
13 an important question here about dealing with posthumous
14 cases, but also about being fair, I think, and
15 recognising the legitimacy and substance to an
16 allegation which we certainly felt was necessary with
17 Carol, the name that’s used for the person who brought
18 the case.
19 Q. Can we turn now, if we may, to another topic…
March 15 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Thursday March 15
Q. [to Colin Perkins) Can I ask you now — I think begin to ask you — about
25 the situation in respect of Bishop George Bell. You
1 have provided a — you provided some details about it
2 within your first witness statement. But you also have
3 a supplementary statement in which you comment upon your
4 views about the report of Lord Carlile of Berriew.
5 I want to mainly take you, because I will say again, as
6 I have said several times, we are not interested in the
7 truth or otherwise of the allegations concerning
8 George Bell. I also understand from information which
9 has been — which is in the public domain that there is
10 another allegation. I will not be asking you about
12 So if I can just identify, what happened in respect
13 of the George Bell case is that there was a core group,
14 you were part of that core group, consistently, which
15 was set up. What was your understanding of the purpose
16 of the core group?
17 A. If I may, I should say that the core group first met
18 13 months after the first email from Carol came in. She
19 emailed initially to Lambeth Palace April 2013. That
20 was forwarded to me.
21 Q. I think you set out — I don’t think we need to turn it
22 up, but paragraphs 392 to 398, chair and panel, of
23 the statement deal with what steps were taken.
24 A. Exactly. So the steps were essentially to offer support
25 and Gemma Wordsworth was the person who was doing all of
Day 9 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 15 March 2018
1 that throughout the rest of 2013, and actually
3 A civil claim was entered in I believe it was early
4 2014 and the core group was essentially — I think it
5 met in early — in May 2014, essentially to respond to
6 the matters arising from that. I don’t think we
7 initially called it a core group, because practice
8 guidance was still emerging at the time. So it was
9 effectively a meeting between key diocesan and national
10 personnel. It became called the core group because that
11 was the term in the emerging guidance. But I don’t
12 think it was initially called one.
13 Q. At paragraph 6 of your supplementary witness statement,
14 which is, just for the record, ACE0262843_003, chair and
15 panel, of that document, you refer to three documents:
16 a briefing note; a George Bell review timeline of key
17 decisions; and a safeguarding timeline overview.
18 Now, if we could get the first one of those up,
19 ACE026290. So this is the briefing note that took place
20 prior to the first core group meeting, which, as you
21 have said, wasn’t actually called that, in May 2014, and
22 this was just to inform everybody about the nature of
23 the case?
24 A. Yeah, myself and Gemma wrote this to make sure that
25 everyone in the meeting had an appraisal of where
1 things — where we were at.
2 Q. Just to — I mean, I think everyone is familiar probably
3 in this room with the allegations in respect of
4 George Bell, but there was an allegation made by Carol
5 of inappropriate touching in the late 1950s. It would
6 appear that the complainant wrote to Eric Kemp in 1995.
7 That letter was on a file. That was then not
8 discovered. Then she then wrote again in 2013 to
9 Lambeth Palace and it was then discovered that the
10 letter had taken place in 1995 and that matters then
11 progressed from there. But it does appear that the file
12 had not been subject to the 2008/2009 past cases review.
13 A. That’s so.
14 Q. I understand there is some reference in one of
15 the documents — and I’m afraid I couldn’t find it —
16 that somebody called it — it was found in the “naughty
17 boys’ cabinet” or something like that. What is that?
18 A. Gosh, that’s an unfortunate phrase, isn’t it?
19 Q. Yes.
20 A. In the corridor in Bishop’s Palace, there is a cabinet
21 to the right which is effectively closed disciplinary
22 cases, so that’s — someone has called it the “naughty
23 boys’ cabinet”. So that’s what’s in there.
24 Q. I understand the reference, if we want to see it, is
25 ANG000030_017 to 018. Thank you, Mr Greenwood.
1 A. Opposite that is a cabinet of largely administrative
2 files that are nothing to do with personnel; maybe to do
3 with a particular trust or a particular building. Upon
4 receiving Carol’s letter, Gemma and I went to the palace
5 to see if we could find, well, anything on George Bell,
6 and so we happened to look in that cabinet, not really
7 expecting —
8 Q. Is that the “naughty boys’ cabinet” or the trust deed
9 cabinet, so to speak?
10 A. No, I would have already seen it if it was in the
11 disciplinary cabinet, because I’d gone through that when
12 I first arrived —
13 Q. Right.
14 A. — for obvious reasons. The administrative cabinet, we
15 found just a loose manila folder of — that contained
16 almost all correspondence about George Bell. It was
17 things to do with the 50th anniversary of his death. It
18 was largely people writing in, “I was visiting the
19 cathedral. I was thinking about George Bell and his
20 work in World War II”, et cetera, et cetera. It was
21 that kind of material. We really therefore had no
22 expectation of finding anything, and then we did find
23 this letter from 1995 and the associated material.
24 Q. So this briefing note was given to everyone. Could we
25 just look briefly through the briefing note. Can you
1 just talk us through it. I don’t think you need to talk
2 us through — could we go to — is it just one page or
3 does it go over to the next page? It goes over to the
4 next page. Right. It sets out basically the
5 chronology, what’s happened when and the fact that there
6 have been some difficulties. Is that right?
7 A. Yes.
8 Q. There is then a timeline of key decisions. So this was
9 prepared in advance of a review meeting held
10 in June 2016. This is ACE026297, tab 50.
11 I’m assuming that this is prepared for
12 Lord Carlile’s benefit?
13 A. Not — sorry, not at that point, no. This was the
14 meeting at Lambeth Palace, as far as I remember, this
15 was the meeting at which it was decided to commission
16 a review which then was the review that Lord Carlile was
17 asked to do. So this was that meeting. He hadn’t been
19 Q. Do you mind, Paul, if we just switch forward slightly on
20 this. There is more than one page. In other words,
21 it’s a chronology which says what happened when. So
22 you’ve got “Email” and then “Detail and comment” and
23 then where it comes from; is that right?
24 A. Exactly.
25 Q. Thank you very much. The third document is
1 “Safeguarding timeline overview”, which is, again,
2 another summary also produced for the June 2016 meeting.
3 That’s ACE026288, please, Paul. Again, what’s this?
4 A. I think it — I believe it was a summary of the previous
6 Q. So this is kind of, “We know that some people are not
7 going to read the entire document, so I’m going to give
8 you the headlines”?
9 A. Essentially.
10 Q. An executive summary, I believe is the word that’s
11 usually used?
12 A. Yes.
13 Q. That’s fine. Can you describe the approach that you
14 considered what then became known as the core group were
15 taking when they were looking at the situation in
16 respect of Carol? I mean, you detail this in your
17 submission to Lord Carlile in July 2017, but it would be
18 useful to have that precised, really?
19 A. Yes, I’m trying to think how to precis it. The approach
20 of the core group was — it was effectively to — or the
21 approach of the meeting that became the core group was
22 effectively to decide how to respond to the perhaps
23 fairly unique situation we were presented with. As
24 I said, by that point, support to Carol had been offered
25 for over a year. She’d spoken to the police. There’d
1 been some counselling provided, and so on and so forth.
2 But I suppose it was the situation that really arose
3 from the receipt of the civil claim, and it was — we
4 were very mindful of —
5 Q. Can I just check. In fact, the civil claim — one of
6 the difficulties with the Carol situation is the fact
7 that the church is not insured in claims against
8 bishops — well, I think it probably is now but it
9 wouldn’t have been at the relevant time that the
10 insurance arose?
11 A. Yes, and that was, I think, one of the prompts for that
12 meeting. I think that for me that is an essential part
13 of understanding what happened here, that we were in
14 a very unusual situation of a civil claim coming in that
15 was uninsured, and, therefore, it wasn’t clear to whom
16 that effectively — to whom the liability belonged.
17 I should say, as I think I allude to in my
18 supplementary statement, there was a backdrop here, and
19 the backdrop was that we would also — well, the church,
20 that any civil claim with regards to Peter Ball would
21 have been in that same position.
22 I wasn’t involved in any of the discussions around
23 this, but I was aware that discussions were taking
24 place, that there could have been a very —
25 a potentially large number of civil claims coming in
1 from around Peter Ball that would have also been
2 uninsured. So I think — as I said, I wasn’t involved
3 in any of those conversations, but there was an
4 awareness that any decision made around the George Bell
5 claim, there was a wider context.
6 Q. The approach that you have taken may — some people may
7 perceive it as a “believe anyone” approach. What were
8 you trying to do, or what do you think the core group
9 was trying to do? Because obviously Lord Carlile
10 thought that you were approaching it in the same way as
11 you would approach any other civil claim, so you were
12 trying to make a decision, you know, “Should this
13 individual be believed on the balance of probabilities
14 or shouldn’t they?” Was that the aim and objective of
15 the core group?
16 A. If I could just take those points in order?
17 Q. Of course.
18 A. In terms of the “believe anyone” approach, that’s
19 actually never been the approach that — I can only
20 speak for my team, but that — said in those terms, it
21 sounds quite pejorative. It sounds quite —
22 Q. That’s —
23 A. No, no —
24 Q. I’m saying it to challenge you.
25 A. I understand.
1 Q. Because that’s what critics of it would say?
2 A. Exactly. So I understand the caricaturing of that kind
3 of approach is a sort of naive, believing anyone no
4 matter how fantastical the allegation, that has never
5 been the approach of my team. But the approach of my
6 team has very much been a willingness to take very
7 seriously anyone making an allegation and to offer the
8 support that would be offered essentially if the
9 allegation is true. So it’s not assessing the
10 allegation before support is offered, but it’s
11 essentially offering the support on the assumption that
12 it could be true. I’m probably articulating that quite
13 badly, but that’s the approach of my team.
14 In terms of, by the time the core group met, we were
15 aware that the civil claim would have to be assessed, so
16 almost by definition, the core group didn’t meet with
17 that kind of “believe anyone” approach because it was
18 meeting to start thinking about how were we going to
19 assess that claim.
20 Q. But was it meant to be an investigative process, kind of
21 a way of saying — or was it — I mean, please explain?
22 A. Yes. The first meeting, May 2014, was essentially, how
23 are we going to proceed? The second meeting, I believe
24 it was in July 2014, was — the advice received from the
25 lawyer who — the lawyer who was acting in the civil
1 claim, although by that point it wasn’t entirely clear
2 who was instructing her because of this concern about
3 with whom did liability rest, but the lawyer acting in
4 that situation effectively — we were quite soon getting
5 into conversations about, should there be some kind of
6 publicity, should there be some kind of, you know,
7 acknowledgement that this claim or this allegation has
8 been made against this huge historical figure, and her
9 advice was very clear: you don’t have much ability to
10 test the claim, because it’s so old, but you do have —
11 sorry, to test the allegation, but you do have a civil
12 claim, so if you were to go public in any way before you
13 have tested that claim, before that claim is settled or
14 resolved, then you will be open to, you know, exactly
15 the kind of allegation of, “Well, you just — you know,
16 you jumped the gun”. So her advice was, allow this
17 claim to run, effectively; let’s do all of the things we
18 normally do in civil claims, instruct psychiatrists and
19 verify what can be verified and so on and so forth.
20 Once that is done, if the claim is settled, then
21 consider what to do about publicity.
22 So that’s what happened. Really, looking back, we’d
23 all acknowledge that I think this was where the problem
24 arose, that at that point, very unusually indeed, the
25 core group became quite intricately involved with the
1 civil claim and the response to the civil claim —
2 perhaps not quite that they became synonymous, but it
3 was getting there. I think we’d all look back and say
4 that should have been held much more separately.
5 MS SCOLDING: I don’t know whether, chair, this might be an
6 appropriate moment to break, because I’m about to start
7 on the response to the Carlile Report which I think will
8 take us past a reasonable hour. So I don’t know whether
9 now might be an appropriate moment?
10 THE CHAIR: Yes, thank you very much. Thank you very much,
11 Mr Perkins.
12 MS SCOLDING: Don’t forget, Mr Perkins, you are under oath.
13 Thank you.
14 (4.24 pm)
15 (The hearing was adjourned until
16 Friday, 16 March 2018 at 10.00 am)
March 16 2018 – IICSA Transcript – March 16
Fiona Scolding QC – Q. He [Lord Carlile] identifies that one of the other issues is that
24 there wasn’t adequate engagement and involvement of
25 Bishop Bell’s family or people speaking on Bishop Bell’s
1 behalf. I think you accept that critique, don’t you?
Perkins – 2 A. I accept that critique,
15 Q. Was it the situation that there was scant, if any,
16 regard to Bishop Bell’s good character? Because that
17 comes out of this at various other points in his
18 conclusions? Paragraph 56 of Lord Carlile’s conclusion,
19 he says:
20 “… scant, if any, regard to … Bishop Bell’s good
21 character [was paid].”
22 Again, he also argued that there was deliberate
23 destruction of the reputation of George Bell. What do
24 you say to those two things?
25 A. In terms of the regard given to his good character, the
1 esteem, he also talks about that —
2 Q. You deal with this at paragraph 70 and onwards of your
3 witness statement. Maybe if you would like to turn that
4 up for your own benefit. Chair and panel, that’s
5 page 25 of Mr Perkins’ supplementary witness statement?
6 A. We were very mindful indeed of the reputation of
7 George Bell, and in many ways the reputation of
8 George Bell is why we were holding the core group in the
9 first place. I have just mentioned a number of other
10 allegations we’d received about deceased clergy. Most
11 of those are obscure clergy, and didn’t generate this
12 level of action. Because we were aware of the weight of
13 his reputation and the likely impact of people reacting
14 to any actions we took, to some extent that was the
15 reason that we were having this nationally chaired
16 meeting involving staff from both the national church
17 and Chichester.
18 But I am very surprised at the extent to which,
19 certainly throughout the last two and a half years,
20 there have been many calls, and I am concerned that some
21 of those calls have correctly or otherwise perceived
22 a high level of support from within Lord Carlile’s
23 report for the suggestion that a great man such as Bell
24 cannot possibly have also been an abuser.
25 As I outlined in my statement, that runs against
1 a lot of the evidence that I’m aware of internationally
2 with regards to child sexual offenders within
3 institutions. If I may, I think there’s one other point
4 that I particularly want to make on that, and for me
5 this is quite an important point: Carol gave an
6 interview to the Brighton Argus in February 2016 —
7 sorry, 2014 — no, I’m getting my dates wrong, it was
8 2016, in response to the controversy. In that interview
9 she said, “I know that George Bell was a man of peace,
10 but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do these things to me”.
11 It always struck me as very powerful that, of all of
12 the people in this narrative, she has managed to keep
13 the balance and she has managed to articulate very
14 powerfully that it’s possible that he was both.
15 Q. I think at paragraph 70 of your witness statement you
16 identify some research that the NSPCC did in educational
17 settings which often found that those who sexually
18 abused students are often the most competent and popular
19 of staff and are often — I think the word used by the
20 NSPCC is “adored”?
21 A. Yes. The evidence — much of the evidence this inquiry
22 has heard, much of the academic evidence throughout the
23 world, suggests, again, going back to Nigel Speight’s
24 quote, that people find it extremely difficult to
25 believe that especially their admired leaders, or
1 admired teachers within that educational setting,
2 sometimes the teachers that are the most popular could
3 also be guilty of abuse. We know that’s worldwide
5 Q. There are two technical issues I want to raise.
6 Lord Carlile criticises the core group, and this is at
7 paragraph 167 of his report, page 044, chair and panel,
8 if you want to get it up, B47. He identifies — he says
9 that one of the things that you got wrong was not
10 understanding that he wouldn’t — had he been alive, he
11 wouldn’t have satisfied the arrest conditions, is what
12 he says.
13 So you mistakenly — what I think he indicates is,
14 having read the minutes, he believes that what happened
15 was, you all thought he would be arrested, he would have
16 been arrested, and therefore that was something which
17 fed into your consideration of whether or not the civil
18 claim should be settled?
19 A. Firstly, I’m not sure that he’s correct about that,
20 having worked with Sussex Police on a large number of
21 cases. I’m actually just not sure that he’s correct.
22 I think he may well have been.
23 But he largely suggested that we were so
24 inexperienced within the criminal justice system that we
25 conflated arrest with charge with conviction. As I say
1 in my statement, that is simply not the case. There
2 were plenty of very experienced safeguarding
3 professionals with, between us, decades of experience
4 within the criminal justice system who were perfectly
5 capable of separating those things out.
6 Q. Thank you. He also identifies that you hadn’t followed
7 the basic prosecutorial process of looking at whether or
8 not something had happened and whether or not — you
9 know, the two-stage test which the CPS identified. Do
10 you have any comment that you wish to make about that?
11 A. Well, he specifically criticises that Sussex Police
12 hadn’t communicated properly to us that process. He
13 identifies Detective Inspector EF as the person who
14 should have, but didn’t, correctly communicate that to
15 us. He identifies that from one email exchange in 2013,
16 right at the start, when we were arranging Carol’s
17 interview with Sussex Police.
18 As I say in my statement, between certainly myself
19 and Gemma, we probably had weekly contacts with DI EF
20 across a five-year period between Operation Perry and
21 Operation Dunhill, and I think it highlights my point
22 that making that conclusion based on one email exchange
23 rather than discussing that with us, where we could have
24 explained that level of contact, is one of my concerns
25 about the process of the report.
Day 10 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 16 March 2018
1 Q. He also recommends, Lord Carlile, at paragraph 170, that
2 there should have been specialist criminal law advice
3 provided to the group. What’s your view about that?
4 A. If I can just —
5 Q. It is page 44 of B47, chair and panel. Thank you very
6 much, Paul.
7 A. I’m just trying to find within my own statement —
8 Q. Oh, you deal with it at paragraph 57, Mr Perkins.
9 A. Thank you.
10 Q. Paragraphs 56, 57 and 58.
11 A. Thank you. Firstly, this was a civil claim, so tested
12 to the civil standard. So it’s still not clear, and
13 I believe not clear to others who are responding to
14 this, why a comment about whether or not it could have
15 been proved to the criminal standard would necessarily
16 help us in deciding whether it could have been proved to
17 the civil standard.
18 But, again, that comment seems to have ignored my
19 submission from July 2016, where I make really clear,
20 and the minutes make really clear, and the legal advice
21 provided to the core group makes really clear, we were
22 making a choice to believe.
23 There was — never at any point, in my recollection,
24 at any point in the core group, did anyone say, “He
25 would have been convicted for this, so we have no
1 choice”. That just wasn’t part of the discussion, which
2 I say in that paragraph.
3 Q. Which, again, Lord Carlile in his report at
4 paragraph 171 seems to identify that one of
5 the criticisms of the core group is they didn’t think
6 about whether or not he would have been prosecuted had
7 he been alive, and he identifies that the prospects of
8 successful prosecution were low. I think at
9 paragraph 57, you say —
10 A. Thank you.
11 Q. — “Well, we wouldn’t necessarily have asked ourselves
12 that question”?
13 A. We were fully aware that the chances of a conviction,
14 were he alive, were low, and, as I say at the end of
15 paragraph 57, external advice on that particular point,
16 was a criminal conviction likely, was not sought, not
17 because it never occurred to us to ask, but because the
18 answer was relatively obvious.
19 Q. Can I ask you just about two further points that he
20 raises at paragraph 155, if we can go back to that,
21 please, chair and panel, 038, please, Paul. Page 38,
22 chair and panel, of B47.
23 He identifies that one of the other issues is that
24 there wasn’t adequate engagement and involvement of
25 Bishop Bell’s family or people speaking on Bishop Bell’s
1 behalf. I think you accept that critique, don’t you?
2 A. I accept that critique, although in the submission from
3 the National Safeguarding Steering Group, I would also
4 emphasise the separation in that submission from the
5 action — between the actions of the core group, the
6 work of the core group, and the work of — I think it’s
7 called — a group — a body thinking about the
8 litigation. I am not sure that there should be within
9 the core group a person doing that, because the core
10 group is really managing a different situation. I think
11 that obviously and clearly should happen, but perhaps
12 within that different body. I think that’s the advice
13 from — or that’s the response from the National
14 Safeguarding Steering Group, which I would agree with.
15 Q. Two further issues: one about limitation; the second
16 about non-disclosure agreements. Obviously you are not
17 a lawyer, so I’m not going to ask you this. One of
18 the points that Lord Carlile raises is that nobody
19 seriously considered the limitation issue and/or that
20 the limitation issue should have been considered. Just
21 for the public, the usual rule is that such claims have
22 to be brought within — well, actually, in cases of
23 sexual violence, it is six years, but in cases of breach
24 of duty, ie negligence, it’s three years but with an
25 equitable time limit under section 33 of the Limitation
1 Act, which involves, in effect, looking at all the
2 circumstances and saying, is it there or isn’t it there.
3 Now, we understand from the Ecclesiastical Insurance
4 Office’s guiding principles that in an insured claim —
5 we dealt with this with Professor MacFarlane earlier in
6 the week — they only raise limitation exceptionally, so
7 to speak?
8 A. Yes.
9 Q. Was limitation something which was considered and
10 discussed within the context of the group?
11 A. It was —
12 Q. Just to say, “It was just too long ago. We can’t
13 possibly settle a claim on this basis”?
14 A. It was considered and discussed extensively in the
15 second core group, July 2014. The minutes make that
16 very clear. In fact, the explanation you’ve just given
17 is possibly almost verbatim the explanation that was
18 given to that core group, and, as the minutes show,
19 there was then an extensive discussion.
20 I think, again, that goes back to my problem about
21 the process of the Lord Carlile review.
22 What the minutes do not say is, “The purpose of
23 limitation was clearly explained”, largely because
24 everyone was fully aware. They were clearly explained
25 but the minutes don’t clearly say that.
Day 10 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 16 March 2018
9 (Pages 33 to 36)
1 Q. Of course, the issues of vicarious liability have
2 changed markedly over the past 10 years in respect of
3 cases of sexual violence against individuals?
4 A. Exactly.
5 Q. To make them a lot more generous than they were, shall
6 I put it that way?
7 A. Yes. But, as I say, the very fact that we had an
8 extensive discussion suggests that that — the point of
9 limitation was fully understood. That is certainly the
10 case: it was fully understood.
11 Q. Non-disclosure agreement. The other significant
12 criticism that Lord Carlile makes is, why wasn’t there
13 a confidentiality agreement put to this in order to
14 avoid what he considers to be unfair besmirching of
15 Bishop Bell’s reputation. I mean, that’s probably
16 putting it slightly higher than Lord Carlile puts it in
17 his report, so I’m slightly overegging that, but he
18 considers that it’s unfair. I think the church has
19 responded and said, “We think it was right that there
20 wasn’t a non-confidentiality agreement and we don’t
21 agree to — confidentiality agreements, I think, rather
22 than non-confidentiality agreements — think about NDA,
23 the US word for them. What’s your view about that, if
24 you have any?
25 A. As you said, the church has already rejected that
1 proposal. I was very glad to see that. As you said,
2 I’m not a lawyer, so I possibly shouldn’t stray into
3 this, but my understanding of —
4 Q. Well, from the perspective of somebody — you’ve
5 identified that you started this process trying to work
6 from the perspective of providing compassionate support
7 to victims and survivors?
8 A. Exactly.
9 Q. From that perspective, that’s your view?
10 A. From that perspective, my understanding of
11 Lord Carlile’s recommendation with regards to the
12 non-disclosure agreement or the confidentiality
13 agreement, he also suggests — my understanding of his
14 report is — that we should have settled the claim
15 with —
16 Q. Sort of no admission of liability?
17 A. No admission of liability. From my point of view, from
18 the perspective you just described, that would have
19 effectively been saying, “We are not accepting your
20 claim. We are not going to apologise. We are going to
21 perhaps provide some monetary settlement and we are
22 going to require you to sign a non-disclosure
23 agreement”. That is exactly the opposite of where
24 I think the church should be on this issue, from my
1 Q. Can we now — that’s been very helpful, and I think we
2 have got a very clear view from you of your critique of
3 that, which I know you were very clear that you wanted
4 to give to this inquiry.
5 Can we now turn to the more mundane topic, or maybe
6 more exciting topic, of what you actually do on
7 a day-to-day basis?….
March 19 2018 – IICSA Reflections – Richard W. Symonds
March 19 2018 – IICSA Reflections – David Lamming
A prime example is the evidence given on 15th-16th March by Colin Perkins. At the beginning of his evidence last Thursday, counsel to the inquiry, Fiona Scolding QC, asked that Mr Perkins’s three witness statements be “placed upon the website at a convenient and appropriate moment.” (Transcript, 15 March 2018, page 82). That moment should have been no later than when Mr Perkins took the oath, yet now, Sunday lunchtime, 18th March, they are still not available for the public to read.
“An illustration of the need for the statements to be published in advance is in the evidence Colin Perkins gave to the Inquiry about the Carlile report on Friday morning (Transcript, 16 March 2018, pages 1-34). Ms Scolding refers to certain passages in Mr Perkins’s witness statement in which he criticises aspects of Lord Carlile’s review. Those criticisms (at least so far as they appear from the extracts set out and commented on in the transcript) are selective and self-serving. One must ask whether Lord Carlile was done the courtesy of bring provided with a copy of the statement, or even being warned that he would be criticised at a public inquiry where he is not represented. One sentence in Mr Perkins’s evidence is telling: “… it is my job to try and articulate these things from the perspective of the victim.” (Transcript, 16 March 2018, pages 15-16) Where is the necessary objectivity, when Carol is regarded as victim, not complainant? No wonder one of Lord Carlile’s conclusions was “… the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on [Bell’s] guilt of what Carol alleged.” (Carlile Review, para 254(vi), page 65.)
~ David Lamming
March 20 2018 – Peter Hitchens – The Mail on Sunday – March 18
“The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, admitted last week it had been a mistake not to give the late Bishop George Bell a defending counsel at the kangaroo court which wrongly convicted him of child abuse. When will he admit that he has made a similar mistake by refusing to allow Bell’s niece, Barbara Whitley, to pick a lawyer to defend him against the mysterious second allegation now levelled against him in secret? Too late, for sure”
March 20 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Tuesday March 20
March 21 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Tuesday March 20
March 21 2018 – “Clergy burnt file after being accused of covering up abuse, inquiry hears” – Christian Today – Harry Farley
March 22 2018 – IICSA Transcript – Wednesday March 21
Archbishop Justin Welby
Page 119-120 [Paras 21-25]
and at the heart of this has to be justice, and justice is a very, very difficult thing to find, as you know much better than I do, but we have to have a system that delivers justice. That is so important. And if it doesn’t, it’s not good enough.
Fiona Scolding QC
Page 123 [Paras 14-25] Page 124 [Paras 1-8]
Q. One of the points that Lord Carlile makes is that the church didn’t take a good enough account of…George Bell’s reputation. Now, we have heard from several individuals about their views about that. But what he seems to suggest is, you have to start — you know, this was such a Titanic figure that one must assume that his reputation is unblemished and, therefore, that has to be weighed very heavily in the balance. Do you have any response to that?
A. “I think the greatest tragedy of all these cases is that people have trusted, very often, those who were locally, in diocesan terms, or nationally Titanic figures, and have then found that they were not worthy of their trust. The fact that someone is a titanic figure doesn’t tell you anything at all, except that they have done remarkable things in one area. It doesn’t tell you about the rest of their lives. And it is not something that we can take into account” – Archbishop Justin Welby
“‘If Bishop Bell’s good reputation ‘is not something that we (The Church of England) can take into account’, then the Church of England [and Archbishop Welby as its leader] are breaking the law. As Lord Carlile has said, taking someone’s good reputation into account “is the law. In criminal cases especially, but also in civil cases, where the character of an alleged perpetrator is impugned by the allegation made, the court takes into account evidence of his good character. It does not mean that he can do no wrong. It is a factor to be weighed in the balance”‘
~ Richard W. Symonds
March 22 2018 – From The Archives [1988 – “Rumpole of the Bailey” with Leo McKern – Episode: ‘Rumpole and the Age of Miracles’ [Series 5 Disc 2) – Filmed on location at Chichester Cathedral [‘The Diocese of Lawnchester’ – Ecclesiastical Court]
Rumpole: “I happen to have a good deal of faith”
Ballard: “Yes, in what precisely?”
Rumpole: “The health-giving properties of Claret. The presumption of innocence…that golden thread running through British justice”
‘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.
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]
‘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.
- ‘…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.
- ‘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.
- 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.
- ‘…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).
- 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.
- 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…’.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
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.
The Carlile report
Sir: The Bishop of Bath and Wells tells us (Letters, 2 December) that nobody is holding up publication of the Carlile report into the Church of England’s hole-in-corner kangaroo condemnation of the late George Bell. Is it then just accidental that the church is still making excuses for not publishing it, and presumably for fiddling about with it, more than eight weeks after receiving it on 7 October? The church was swift to condemn George Bell on paltry evidence. It was swifter still to denounce those who stood up for him, falsely accusing them of attacking Bell’s accuser. Yet it is miserably slow to accept just criticism of itself. Somehow, I suspect that, had Lord Carlile exonerated the apparatchiks involved, his report would long ago have been released. May I commend to the Bishop the words of Our Lord (Matthew 5:25): ‘Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him.’