The Chichester Observer reported on Monday 12 February: Church defends its position on Bishop Bell amid mounting pressure
This includes a report of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme item on the morning of Saturday 10 February:
Lord Carlile, having advised in his report that alleged perpetrators, living or dead, should not be publicly identified unless a ‘proper and adequate investigation’ is settled with ‘admission of liability’, has opening [sic] criticised the Church for ignoring his recommendations in announcing this new information.
Speaking on Radio 4 Today on Saturday morning ahead of the General Synod gathering for a third day, Lord Carlile said:
“It’s like a small dictatorial government deciding to go ahead and acting any way it wishes, regardless of due process of the rule of law.
“It flies in the face of the recommendations I made which the Church said it accepted. “The Church has got to get a grip on this.”
The programme also reported that the Church has denied Bishop Bell’s surviving family legal representation from their chosen barrister for this new investigation. Speaking on the programme on behalf of the Church, Tim Thornton, Bishop at Lambeth, said instead someone had been ‘put forward to represent the voice of Bishop Bell’ and his family…
On the same day, Martin Sewell wrote an article on the Archbishop Cranmer site, Church of England bullies George Bell’s elderly niece by denying her choice of lawyer. This long article really does need to be read in full, but here is a taster:
…Last December, Mrs Whitley would have taken comfort from the Carlile Report on the simple basis that if the original conclusion of the church’s Core Group is unsupportable through defect of process, then the reputational status quo ante applies. The Archbishop of Canterbury rather publicly does not agree, but in the Court of public opinion he is probably in a minority.
With the new matter placed prematurely in the public domain – against Lord Carlile’s specific advice – Mrs Whitley might have regarded that as simply the church’s token saving of face at a point when its sub-optimal competence in the handling of a historic case had been evidenced and asserted. ‘Look how transparent we now are’ is a way of kidding ourselves that things were/are not as bad as they were/are.
We all thought things would be done better the second time round, including the church putting right one of the more obvious errors of the first set of proceedings. The relevant Carlile recommendation had been: “The Core Group should have, in addition to someone advocating for the complainant, someone assigned to it to represent the interests of the accused person and his or her descendants.”
Those dealing with this new information acted with speed, but they had a problem. The old regulations which contributed to the errors referred to in ‘Bell 1’ were still in place; the House of Bishops have not yet formally accepted the Carlile Report; Church House was hurriedly drafting new regulations to address the need identified by Lord Carlile for a deceased accused to be represented at the Core Group. They wanted to ‘get on with it’, which is to be commended, but under pressure they gave themselves the unencumbered power to appoint the person who should represent that accused. Seeking the opinion of the family was plainly overlooked…
Today Martyn Percy also has a guest appearance at Archbishop Cranmer: ‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word: apologetics and apologies in the Bishop Bell case. He gives more detail on the latter point:
…Mrs Barbara Whitley, George Bell’s niece, and now 94 years of age, has made it clear that she wished to be represented by Desmond Browne QC. Yet without consulting with Mrs Whitley or the wider family further, on 8th February 2018, Graham Tilby of the NST informed Bell’s family and friends that he had assigned a Mr Donald Findlater to represent their interests and concerns. Moreover, it seems that Findlater had already attended the first Core Group meeting on 29th January 2018. At the time of that meeting Mrs Whitley had absolutely no idea about the new allegations. She has never met Findlater. So it must have been a strange and somewhat surreal sensation for the family and friends of Bishop George Bell to discover that the Church of England had appointed their defence advocate to represent Bell, without consulting the interested parties, and without anyone knowing what the “fresh information” consisted of…
A correspondent has kindly supplied a transcript of the BBC Today interview mentioned above.