Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Bishop George Bell: new information reported

Updated again Friday evening

Two press releases today from the Church of England:

Statement on Bishop George Bell case: Bishop Peter Hancock

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said: ”There are ongoing queries and comments around the Bishop Bell case and we would all like this matter to come to a conclusion. However, in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday, I would like to draw your attention to this statement from the National Safeguarding Team. I would ask that we keep all those involved in our thoughts and prayers. Due to the confidential nature of this new information I regret I cannot disclose any further detail until the investigations have been concluded. We are currently developing an action plan in response to Lord Carlile’s independent report which makes a number of considered points as to how to handle such cases in future and we have accepted the main thrust of the recommendations.”

Statement on Bishop George Bell case: National Safeguarding Team

“The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell. Sussex Police have been informed and we will work collaboratively with them. This new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations. The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments. As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.”

See also Church Times report: New Bell material sparks fresh investigation.

In relation to the IICSA hearing yesterday, the transcript of that is available here.
The Church Times report of it is headlined: Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse pores over 75,000 pages about Chichester diocese.
There is also a report in The Tablet.

In relation to the forthcoming General Synod session, the only documents issued relating to Safeguarding are copies of two previously published reports:

GS Misc 1172 An Abuse of Faith relating to Peter Ball

GS Misc 1173 The Independent Review relating to Bishop George Bell

Wednesday Update

Telegraph Church accused of launching new ‘shameful’ attack on memory of Bishop George Bell

…The Telegraph understands the Church has known about the case for at least a fortnight before making it public 24 hours before the Church House debate…

…Lord Carlile said he was astonished that the Church had gone public with the new claim against Bishop Bell. Among his recommendations was that people accused of abuse should remain anonymous until the allegations are proven.

Lord Carlile said last night: “I am not privy to the information that is referred to in the church’s press release. But I think it was unwise, unnecessary and foolish to issue a press release in relation to something that remains to be investigated and which was not part of the material placed before me over the period of more than a year in which I carried out my review.

“During that period the review was well known and it was open to anybody to place information before me.”

Thursday Update

There’s been a further flurry of items during Thursday:

Church Times
Lord Carlile says new statement about Bishop George Bell is unwise and foolish

Christian Today
George Bell, Justin Welby and the perils of navigating a binary argument
EXCLUSIVE: Bishop blasts disgraced priest allowed to defend George Bell at Church of England’s headquarters

“Archbishop Cranmer” Lord Carlile denounces ‘foolish’ Church of England for casting further doubt on the name of Bishop George Bell

Peter Hitchens New ‘information’ about George Bell. A Coincidence Theorist Writes

Friday Updates

Argus Church waited weeks to reveal new claims

THE Church of England waited six weeks to release an allegation of historic sexual abuse, The Argus can reveal.

The “fresh information” about Bishop George Bell came on Wednesday.
The General Synod is due to discuss Bell’s case next week.

A senior Church of England source said the “fresh information” came to light “within days” of a press conference at Church House on December 15 at which Lord Alex Carlile was damning about the Church’s handling of the affair.
The source said internal discussions were taking place “well before Christmas” on how to handle the new allegations…
…The “fresh information” is believed to be an allegation received by another complainant.

The George Bell affair hit the headlines in mid-December when Lord Carlile accused the Church of unfairly maligning the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most revered churchmen.

At the time Lord Carlile said the Church investigation of Carol’s complaint had been “deficient in several ways”.

He added: “The statement [of October 2015] was wrong, it should never have been issued. I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.”

Yesterday he said: “My clear view, which I’ve expressed to the Church, is that the press release issued yesterday should never have been released.
“It flies in the face of my recommendations.
“I recommended strongly that there should be a case investigated before any announcement was made.”

When informed of the time delay, Lord Carlile pointed out that a demonstration had been planned for yesterday by those seeking an apology from the Church and a full restitution of Bell’s legacy.

Lord Carlile said: “If the timing was deliberate, it’s a disgrace.
“And if it was not deliberate, then it’s incompetent.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 at 3:34pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

"The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments."


Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 at 5:16pm GMT

Clearly not "in accordance with Lord Carlisle's recommendations," since the identity of the accused person has been revealed. Let's all just hope and pray they are much more thorough this time, though confidence will be low. The trouble is, we end up believing no one, and that may very much hurt a complainant.

Posted by: Bernard Randall on Wednesday, 31 January 2018 at 7:37pm GMT

Alert the Media! We're still screwing up royally.

I share Bernard Randall's concern.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 12:26am GMT

I remember many years ago hearing shocking rumours about Peter Ball's behaviour before he received a police caution. It seems unbelievable that Ball's identical twin had no knowledge of his brother's activities when countless others in the Church of England knew.

Posted by: FrDavidH on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 8:53am GMT

Very strong statement from Alex Carlile.

Posted by: TP on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 9:24am GMT

After the excoriating analysis of the National Safeguarding Team's incompetence in the Carlile report, how on earth can they be trusted to follow this up? As for releasing this latest statement... words fail me.

Posted by: Michael Mulhern on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 9:41am GMT

What an awful precedent.

So if the National Safeguarding team receive information about someone they feel free to issue a press statement?

I know its a deceased person here, and there has been an investigation. However, it comes across as a little spiteful - we were told off, but ha ha, there is more now... but we won't tell you any more.

Posted by: James on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 11:28am GMT

Great news from Pyong-Yang! 'Fresh information' has come forward about Bishop Bell about which we can say nothing, except we've known about it for two weeks and have just decided to release it, just before the General Synod at which our Dear Leader might otherwise have had to explain his refusal to apologise over his comments re: Bishop Bell!

Posted by: stephen morgan on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 11:56am GMT

Throughout, I've said that Bell may have been guilty. I don't close my mind to that possibility here; I simply presume his innocence until evidence is released that rebuts that presumption.

Emphasis on possibility. Releasing Bell's name, on the eve of awkward questions being asked about the CoE's actions to date, and in the face of the recommendation that nothing be revealed until the investigation's completed, stinks. The church has learned nothing.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 12:39pm GMT

The various news items about new developments in the Bishop Bell fiasco take their lead from the official statement released by the National Safeguarding Team. The statement refers to "fresh information concerning Bishop Bell", that "Sussex police have been informed", that there is to be an independent investigation into these "latest developments."

Based on what is available here and in the press, The Statement does not use the word "complaint" nor does it specifically say there are either new complaints or additional information with regard to the initiating complaint. One wonders if it might be wise to hold fire until there is clarity about what is meant by the rather vague terms new information, new developments.

The police ( Telegraph article) are not saying very much about this currently. Have they officially confirmed that the "fresh information" is either one or more new complaints or additional information about the originating complaint?

The Church authorities do not appear to have learned a great deal from the recommendations in the Carlile Report with regard to information sharing and going public.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 2:56pm GMT

But at least the Bishop Bell case is successfully kicked into the long grass, well past this Synod meeting and perhaps other meetings as well.

In fact, a glacial investigation could have the very positive effect of pushing any further public disclosure past the 2020 Lambeth Conference.


Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 3:30pm GMT

Another very fine mess the C of E has got into.

Posted by: Paul Waddington on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 4:30pm GMT

Abp Welby's statements on the case, especially the most recent, make a little more sense now - though they seem no less ill-advised.

I note from the IICSA transcript that one subject they will be looking at, in March and again in July, is whether the Church is more motivated by protecting itself than by protecting complainants. This latest statement won't help to allay suspicions that t he Church is primarily motivated by the wish to protect itself.

Abp Welby and Bp Warner (among others) are also listed as being late in submitting their signed witness statements to the Inquiry. Is something else going on, or do they just not see co-operation with the inquiry as a high priority?

Posted by: Janet Fife on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 4:45pm GMT

We must wait to see who will undertake the further 'investigation' and their precise terms of reference. Clearly it will not be Lord Carlile.

Posted by: Rowland Wateridge on Thursday, 1 February 2018 at 11:11pm GMT

“As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.”

Hang on. If it's a "confidential matter," then why say anything about it at all?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 12:29am GMT

Why not - Lord Carlile?

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 5:20am GMT

I don't know if there's a garden at Lambeth Palace, but at present rate of progress (same-sex marriage, George Bell) the Dear Leader's going to need a bigger patch of long grass to kick things into!

Posted by: stephen morgan on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 11:38am GMT

To me this is yet another example of the leadership treating CofE as a public authority rather than as a church.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 1:44pm GMT

I thought that the CofE was being run as a business, Kate, where reputation is everything, perception is reality, and nobody else's reputation matters. This is shaming and disgraceful, and I hope that our GS reps will not be duped by it, and will pursue their questions next week with increased vigour.

Posted by: Malcolm Dixon on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 5:07pm GMT

It's a pretty poor state of affairs when Peter Hitchens starts to look reasonable, balanced and accurate.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Friday, 2 February 2018 at 5:34pm GMT

Sadly, this deeply troubling matter becomes more so daily. In reply to Father David, in the light of the events of the past few days it seems improbable in the extreme that the Church would re-instruct Lord Carlile, and it would be extraordinarily magnanimous on his part to agree to undertake the further investigation if asked.

Posted by: Rowland Wateridge on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 12:42am GMT

Rowland, who knows more about the accusation against Bishop Bell than Lord Carlile having spent an entire year of his life looking into this most distressing affair? I am sure that he is indeed "extraordinarily magnanimous" but understandably perturbed that whatever "new information" has now apparently come to light wasn't presented to him prior to the publication of his highly detailed report.

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 8:41am GMT

The world would be a better place if the police stopped investigating dead people other than as ways to close cold cases.

There are reasons to investigate dead suspects. If there is a crime where there is no doubt that it actually took place - a body with a knife in its back, a safe with a large explosive-made hole, a rape victim with unambiguous evidence of rape - then coming to the conclusion that the perpetrator is dead allows the case to be closed. Sometimes this goes wrong, of course - there have been cases, although I can't recall the details, in which crimes closed because of a a dead prime suspect turned out to have been committed by someone else - but in general it is a reasonable use of police resources to avoid the periodic reviews of cold cases.

What is not a reasonable use of resources is deciding that someone's a wrong 'un and casting around for vague "evidence" that they committed crimes. The Edward Heath affair is an obvious example of this, and the police have made themselves look very stupid; next time a Home Secretary cuts their budgets, they can not unreasonably point out that if they have money to waste on wild goose chases, they have too much money.

Quite what the police are supposed to do with "information" about an unreported crime having been committed by a dead suspect with no evidence, I don't know. But every moment they spend on it is evidence their budgets need cutting.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 10:17am GMT

I would welcome the further appointment of Lord Carlile, but as well as his willingness, the terms of reference would be crucial. At present there is an impasse over confidentiality and anonymity; the Church has taken a different line from Lord Carlile's core recommendations about both.

Posted by: Rowland Wateridge on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 10:35am GMT

There is possible cause and effect here, in the sense that the publicity around the Carlile report gave space for, or encouraged, the new complainant to come forward, or simply made that person's mind up about doing so, or caused that person to want to add that person's evidence.

I use the word "complainant," even though the Church did not in its statement, because several journalists are saying they "understand" that the "information" is a new complaint. Someone seems to have leaked what the Church did not say officially. Which is rather low, even if a complaint is true; but Lord Carlile's point is that its truth is not known yet.

So Lord Carlile's advice is being ignored, after he gave it. It would be unusual, to say the least, for a QC to agree to be engaged again by an institution that has now disregarded his advice so publicly.

Lord Carlile will steer very clear of this new inquiry, and rightly so.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 10:42am GMT

Re Jeremy, "Someone seems to have leaked what the Church did not say officially." Did they I wonder?

Are there stories in mainstream media platforms that are using phrases such as, ' a source close to Safe Guarding has told us', or ' a person close to the Church's investigation has said', or ' our reporters have learned that the new information is actually a second complaint'?

Rather, news outlets seem to be reporting on the possibility of a second complaint based on inferences from the church's rather vague statement. See the BBC report of January 31st for example.

Now, the inference may be correct, and the reporters drawing it are clearly attempting to "de-spin" the church's statement in the interests of hard news. However, what one might wait for is a second credible source that verifies what the church's press release seems to want to suggest. At this point, part of the story is why the church has made the kind of press release it has.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 2:05pm GMT

The timing of this 'fresh information' is positively putinesque. Please, General Synod reps, call this lot in Lambeth Palace to account. Someone needs to show some moral leadership here, because the Archbishop and his spin doctors seem incapable of providing it.

Posted by: Bill Broadhead on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 4:10pm GMT

One might think that 'George Bell has been at it again'.-- but no tis the beauracratic bunglers-

while Bishop Bell is doing his utmost from heaven.

To attack a person of Bell's stature , commemorated in the Calendar is disgraceful.

An own goal ffs....

Posted by: laurie Roberts on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 4:59pm GMT

Rod Gillis, I agree that the latest release is part of the story.

As for whether reporters are jumping to the wrong conclusion, about a new complaint—they may be, but in that case the Church is being extremely deceptive.

Given the subject, and the widespread concern about a dead person’s reputation being smeared without basis, I think that the press would not say that such a thing is “understood” without some official guidance.

But of course the real issue is whether complaints can be given any public credence before they are carefully weighed. Lord Carlile’s answer to that question is clearly No. The church’s answer again is Yes.

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 3 February 2018 at 9:33pm GMT

If there has been a fresh complaint, it hasn't even been investigated yet. That being so, this latest is much worse than the 2015 press release.

Emphasis on "if," since the hierarchy haven't even confirmed that much. Until more details are released, this new information could be anything, from corroboration of the original complaint, or even exculpatory evidence.

Very strong words from the church's own handpicked judge. Even if evidence of Bell's guilt finally emerges, this process has been a disgrace from start to finish, something unaffected by Bell's guilt or innocence. It was always about the principle as much as it was the person.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 12:14am GMT

Re Jeremy: "...but in that case the Church is being extremely deceptive."

The point and purpose of the press release wording may become more evident as events unfold. If there are new complaints why not just say so, especially when the press release engenders that conclusion?

"As for whether reporters are jumping to the wrong conclusion, about a new complaint—they may be..."

I wouldn't say they are jumping to the wrong conclusion. Rather, they are making an inference, which as far as I am aware, no one from the church has attempted to challenge but one which as yet has not been verified by a second source. Perhaps the police will eventually be able to make a public comment on the matter.

A press release is essentially a public relations text. It may have been crafted to allow for some sort of 'wiggle room' pending further developments. Who knows.

My point is simply this: The press release implies but does not state that there are new complaints.

Beyond that, I agree with the comments of Lord Carlile in the media regarding the lack of wisdom demonstrated by the church in making such a release in the first place.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:12am GMT

"If there are new complaints why not just say so"

Because that would infuriate many people, and dig the church's appearance-of-unfairness hole deeper.

Obviously any press release is a PR document. With this one, the Church is clumsily trying to have it both ways--not to call the "information" a complaint, on the one hand, and to use the information to cow Synod, on the other.

It's not working, and I think it will boomerang badly; but the proof of that will be in the Synod pudding.

Again it is a rush to use Bishop Bell for the church's political and reputational purposes.

"Holy thug" indeed (re: Welby).

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 4 February 2018 at 2:02pm GMT

Re Jeremy, "...the Church is clumsily trying to have it both ways--not to call the "information" a complaint, on the one hand, and to use the information to cow Synod, on the other."

Possibly. Something is afoot.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 5 February 2018 at 3:15am GMT

Am I alone in thinking that this sort of vague statement is practically an inducement to gossip and speculate, and hence a case of placing a stumbling block in the path of others on the part of the CofE?

Posted by: Jo on Monday, 5 February 2018 at 11:30am GMT

Re Jo, "...this sort of vague statement is practically an inducement to gossip and speculate..." It is an inducement for some enterprising journalist to find out what is going on behind the scenes.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 5 February 2018 at 1:31pm GMT

Hmmm... tonight I am lecturing on Bonhoeffer. Should I airbrush George Bell out of the story? I think not...

Posted by: Charles Read on Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 3:27pm GMT
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