At this hopeful time of year it is a pleasure to congratulate @LordCarlile QC on his review of the procedures followed by the @ChurchofEngland in dealing with sexual allegations against @BishopGeorgeBell of Chichester, who died in 1958. The allegations were first made in 1995 by a woman known only as ‘Carol’, and renewed in 2012 and 2013.
Carlile had not been asked to pronounce on Bell’s guilt or innocence, and he did not do so. What he did was to expose the startling deficiencies in the conduct and administration of the “ Core Group” set up by the Chichester diocese and the national church to look into the whole question. The Group was chaired by members of the diocesan Safeguarding Team, with the current @BishopofChichester , @DrMartinWarner, as a member, though he only attended three (or perhaps fewer) of its five meetings. It came to the conclusion that Bell was probably guilty, whereupon Warner publicly apologised and paid off the complainant.
The Core Group’s deficiencies, identified by Carlile, provide a lesson in how not to run an enquiry which might well be included in university courses. There was unacceptable discontinuity of attendance and chairmanship, papers were not always distributed in the same format to all members, no Advocatus Diaboli was appointed to watch Bell’s interests, the complainant was regarded as a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’ rather than as a complainant, no attempt was made to find any relations of Bell, nor his chaplain, who was still alive and well, though very old, and it seems that no serious attempt was made to test Carol’s allegations, nor to find any corroborative evidence. Carlile tartly says that he had to accept what he was told, that several Group members had extensive experience of the criminal justice system, but that unfortunately there was no evidence that they had shared it.
One of the.most shocking details is that the Group seems to have been determined to believe that Bell must have abused more than one child. Having discovered that he had been in close touch with the German Kindertransport, and had put up young British evacuees at the Palace, it apparently convinced itself that these opportunities for wrongdoing strengthened the case for believing in Bell’s guilt. In fact they strengthen the opposite case, for no whiff of complaint from anyone except Carol had ever been detected. The opportunities were there, but there is no evidence that Bell took them.
Carlile’s devastating review does not explicitly assign responsibility, but it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it rests with Dr Warner, and with the @ArchbishopofCanterbury himself, who was kept intermittently informed.
Tomorrow I hope to compare with Lord Carlile’s findings some statements made by Dr Warner in November 2015.
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