Friday, 16 February 2018

Bishop George Bell: this week's developments

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.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 6:45pm GMT | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Church of England

Speak first and find later, I always say.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 16 February 2018 at 10:10pm GMT

Re: 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." Ya think!

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 17 February 2018 at 3:19am GMT

There is a thoughtful piece by Gavin Drake on highlighting the problem with confidentiality for alleged abusers.

Without doubting Lord Carlile's sincerity or minimising the impact of mistaken claims of abuse (however rare), he is part of an establishment which has repeatedly failed survivors; and, as in the case of Greville Janner, in which his judgement was questioned (, he may not always be right.

Trying to return to the days when survivors were routinely silenced would ultimately do even greater damage to the Church of England.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 17 February 2018 at 4:43pm GMT

I'm just shocked that a petroleum executive would engage in corporate obfuscation and damage control.

Who would possibly have anticipated such a thing?

Posted by: JPM on Saturday, 17 February 2018 at 5:32pm GMT

"Trying to return to the days when survivors were routinely silenced would ultimately do even greater damage to the Church of England."

Couldn't agree more, Savi: and given that I've seen absolutely no-one suggest any such thing -- indeed, the people defending due process on Cranmer's site are the same people defending victims from institutional neglect -- I'm not sure why you've raised it here. Bell's defenders are motivated by opposition to institutions acting lawlessly, which harms everyone, especially victims.

What we need is fairness, which is achieved by assessing every allegation with an open mind. Routinely disbelieving complainants is every bit as bad as treating accusations as binding proof.

Posted by: James Byron on Sunday, 18 February 2018 at 12:00am GMT

Savi, I endorse James Byron's reply to your comment. May I suggest that you read the Carlile report in full if you have not yet done so. It's available to download from the General Synod pages of the Church of England website as GS Misc 1173:

Lord Carlile was not 'part of the establishment which has repeatedly failed survivors' but a senior lawyer, appointed to carry out an independent review of "the way the Church of England dealt with a complaint of sexual abuse by a woman known as 'Carol' against the late Bishop Bell." (Report, para 1) The report is a devastating critique of the way the Church 'investigated' Carol's complaint, to the extent that although Lord Carlile's Terms of Reference did not extend to determining the truth or otherwise of Carol's allegations, he has shown the Core Group's 'process' to be so fundamentally flawed that its findings (set out in the public statement of 22 October 2015) cannot stand.

It is to be noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury, rightly criticised for his 'significant cloud' statement following publication of the Carlile Report on 15 December 2017, has acknowledged, in his 'Conversation' with the editor of the Church Times published in the 16 February 2018 issue, that Lord Carlile "points out some of the quite severe weaknesses in the initial investigation of George Bell" and that "We have to have a system that brings justice. It must bring justice to those who've been abused, to survivors, and it must also bring justice to those who are accused. We cannot have something which either overlooks safeguarding issues and abuse, in its many varied forms, or, alternatively, is unjust in its treatment of those who are accused."

This is why it is vital that the Church does not repeat the mistakes of 'Bell 1' in its 'Bell 2' investigation of the 'new information.'

Posted by: David Lamming on Sunday, 18 February 2018 at 10:06am GMT

Thank you, Savi, for drawing our attention to the article by Gavin Drake. Although most of my sympathies fall on the “side” represented by Martyn Percy, David Lamming, Martin Sewell et al, I continue to feel a sense of discomfort here. With the outstanding exception of poor Mrs Whitley, virtually all of the “et al” are men. My impression, having followed a dozen or so threads on TA over the months is that nearly all the contributors are men also. A number of very regular female TA contributors, who can express themselves at length and with persuasive eloquence on other subjects, such as Savi herself, Erika Baker, Cynthia and some others, have been conspicuously quiet on this particular controversy. This almost total absence of female voices makes me ask whether those who have commented are missing something.
What are the questions we are addressing?
1. Is +Bell guilty? Gavin Drake suggests that one person alive, “Carol” knows the answer to that. Having read Carlile’s discussion of the possibility of false memory and/or the Chichester choristers’ hints of mistaken identity, perhaps we should say that no one alive knows the answer, and we probably never will.
2. Do we think (or perhaps should we think) that he is probably guilty? “Carol” says absolutely yes; Barbara Whitley says absolutely no. Carlile, the George Bell Group, the historians, and a lot of other men state that the glaring deficiencies in the way the Church has handled this matter entitle +Bell to the presumption of innocence. I’d like to think they are right, but the more their cause is trumpeted, the more “Carol” is marginalised. She has not withdrawn her accusations. What do we feel about her? What should we feel about her? That’s where I would like to hear the voices of some women.
3. Should Mrs Whitley have the right to nominate her representation on the Bell2 Core Committee? Well, of course. Every reason to accommodate her there, and no sensible reason not to.
I guess where I am getting to in all this is that IF the Bell2 Committee do their job properly, and IF this new information is shown to be reliable, and IF it shifts the balance of probabilities significantly in the direction of +Bell’s guilt, then a lot of prominent men will owe “Carol” some pretty big apologies.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 19 February 2018 at 2:30am GMT

"then a lot of prominent men will owe “Carol” some pretty big apologies"

That's "the victim must be believed" reasoning, and although it may make pastoral or social-work sense, in all other contexts it is simply wrong.

No one need apologise for requesting a rigorous investigation, or for otherwise asking that in investigating itself, the Church serve the truth. No matter how Bell 2 turns out, those who identified the flaws in Bell 1 did the Church a favor.

The Church was poorly served by the "oversteer" that Lord Carlile identified, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury seems unwilling to correct (indeed, intent on perpetuating).

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 19 February 2018 at 3:10pm GMT

As apologies are owed for wrongdoing, the only people who'd owe Carol apologies would be people who'd maligned her character: which I've seen none of the "prominent men" in question do. Just the opposite: they've constantly emphasized that "Carol" must be listened to and that Bell may have been guilty.

If defending the presumption of innocence is somehow wrongdoing that calls for an apology, then should defense counsel stand up and apologize to the complainant at the end of every trial that brings in a guilty verdict?

I have no time for ad homs or gender essentialism. People of both sexes have taken both sides here. I judge contributions by their merits, not their author's sex, and would never suppose for a second that a person's sex would hold them back from making a strong point.

Besides, if we want to talk marginalization of women by powerful men, what better example could there be than the treatment of Bell's niece?

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 19 February 2018 at 4:54pm GMT

RE: Edward Prebble, with Regard to the Lord Carlile report alone, the implications are not that black and white. Carlile did what the was asked to do, i.e, make a determination on process based on the information available to him at the time.
The pulic re-hashing of this is directly related to a flawed church process which has done a disservice to the principals involved including the complainant.

The settlement process ought to have been decisive; but instead has meant ongoing controversy and public scrutiny. If there are apologies to be issued, then it is the church that ought to apologize, and not least of all to the complainant.

If I were the recipient of a settlement which I believed belatedly vindicated me, and then found myself at the centre of an ongoing public guessing games because of the process employed, I'd be asking my self, 'what the blazes just happened?'

What is to be learned here? The answer, in part at least, is to be found in the Carlile recommendations. No wonder the guy sounds frustrated.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 19 February 2018 at 6:24pm GMT

I too am grateful to Savi Hensman for mentioning the Gavin Drake article. It is useful and balanced. It needs more oxygen. Drake says: "I do not know if Carol’s allegations are true. The Church of England does not know whether Carol’s allegations are true. The Archbishop of Canterbury does not know whether Carol’s allegations are true. Bishop Bell’s supporters do not know whether Carol’s allegations are true. Only Carol knows whether the allegations are true."

The scarcely helpful BBC Today interview (10 Feb) tried to package up myriad strands of this story in short order, including the apparent comment made during the programme that: "It won’t be resolved until there is an unequivocal acknowledgement that Bell was an innocent man." But that is a naive and arguably prejudicial assertion. No doubt the George Bell Group will go on and on in their campaign as they are entitled to. But there may never be an unequivocal acknowledgement one way or the other. That is the position the Church and all stakeholders find themselves in. And it is not the role of Lord Carlile to criticise the Church that the recommendations in his report have not been accepted in full. His job is done. And by the way, anonymity has been a significant contributory factor in many of these cases for decades past, from the days of 'move him on' up to the present.

The IISCA will have a lot to say on anonymity and may sweep it away in cases like this, in the interests of a new culture of focus on victims. That clearly has consequences for the reputation of those accused who are deceased (not those who are living, who can be both called to account and represented) and their families, but we seem to forget that Bishop Bell is safe in the hands of his Maker. How many of us (if any) go to the grave with reputations in pristine condition? I do however believe the press release language has been unfortunate and could have been couched in more nuanced language. The Church has never said Bishop Bell is guilty, merely that it believes it was right to settle with 'Carol' and also disclose the person accused. Inevitably people will draw their own conclusions from those facts. As to Bell2 we shall have to see what this new 'information' is. Even if I am wrong in my assertion that the Church was right to disclose, having done so the existence of new information had to be coupled with the name of Bishop Bell.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Wednesday, 21 February 2018 at 10:15pm GMT

As Anthony Archer says (21 Feb, 10.15 pm), in respect of 'Bell 2', we shall have to wait to see what the 'new information' is. However, as I posted above, it is vital that in investigating this new information the Church does not repeat the egregious errors of 'Bell 1' that Lord Carlile has identified in his report. It is also vital that this new information is investigated quickly and, if there is nothing in it, that this can be stated publicly as soon as possible.

Three comments otherwise on Anthony's post:

First, his statement that "there may never be an unequivocal acknowledgement one way or the other [whether Carol's allegation is true]. That is the position the Church and all stakeholders find themselves in." This is why the presumption of innocence is important. When a court is deciding a civil claim (or a Core Group is deciding whether to settle a claim before proceedings are commenced on the basis that the claim is true), it is a binary task, as Lord Justice McFarlane (the CofE's President of Disciplinary Tribunals) said last week in the Court of Appeal in his judgment in Re R (Children) [2018] EWCA Civ 198 at para 62. A claimant who loses a civil claim may continue to believe his or her case, but the result is that the claim is dismissed. It is worth recalling the contrasting words that Archbishop Justin used at the General Synod in York on 11 July 2015 in his farewell tribute to the late Bishop Michael Perham (who had also faced allegations of historical sexual abuse, made by two women) : "Michael has had to undergo, with Alison and the family, a very difficult time over the last 11 months. I am especially glad for a number of reasons that we are in a position today, after all the inquiries and investigations, to be full of praise and thanksgiving for his ministry without hesitation. I think that is really important." No 'significant cloud' remaining there.

Second, as to anonymity, Lord Carlile only recommended this for the situation where the Church makes a 'pragmatic' decision to settle a case while denying liability: see report para 52. In such a case, he advised, "there should be a presumption that there should be a no publicity clause", stating his view that this is what should have happened in 'Bell 1', adding that in such a case, "where there is a settlement properly reached on a non-admission of liability basis, the complainant is not a 'survivor'".

Third, Anthony says that "The Church has never said Bishop Bell is guilty, merely that it believes it was right to settle with 'Carol' and also disclose the person accused." That is not Lord Carlile's reading of the 22 October 2015 statement announcing the settlement of the civil claim by the person we now know as 'Carol'. At para 237 Lord Carlile says this: "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."

This is why, whatever the outcome of the 'Bell 2' investigation, Lord Carlile's criticisms of the 'Bell 1' investigation remain valid, with the clear corollary that the 'finding' that Bell was guilty of abusing Carol cannot stand.

Posted by: David Lamming on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 10:55am GMT

“Only Carol knows whether the allegations are true."

The notion that Carol must have “the truth” is flatly refuted by Professor Maden’s report as quoted by Carlile:

“178. The parts of Professor Maden’s report dealing generally with credibility were as follows:
“Summary of Opinion
“The delays in reporting in this case are exceptional. Memory is not reliable over such long periods of time and the only way to establish that the allegations are true would be through corroborating evidence.”

Unless someome can show Madden to be wrong, I would reserve “more oxygen” for arguments that are accurate.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 11:50am GMT

"If defending the presumption of innocence is somehow wrongdoing that calls for an apology, then should defense counsel stand up and apologize to the complainant at the end of every trial that brings in a guilty verdict?"

That's the fundamental issue I have with Bell's supporters. Their focus is on Bell being judged fairly, in some sort of quasi-judicial process.

We are though - or at least should be - a church. Our role NEVER is to judge. Our responsibility is the care of victims.

Why do we never ask how abusers come to be ordained? Never ask how "discernment" fails when selecting bishops? Why do we never ask whether abusers join the church because it offers opportunities to abuse, or whether how we are organised places people who might otherwise never sin in temptation? Has the inherent patriarchy created a climate of male privilege which might increase the risk of abuse?

We don't ask the difficult questions because instead we seem to only care whether Bell is innocent or guilty. God knows. Literally, God knows. And that should be enough for us.

If Bishop Bell was the Christian his supporters claim, then I don't think he would approve of their focus on his reputation ahead of care of the victim(s).

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 2:46pm GMT

"This is why the presumption of innocence is important"

Is it? As followers of Christ, don't we all recognise that we are sinners? The presumption of innocence is a civil construct - and a very important one - but it would take theologians, not lawyers, to justify it having any importance in terms of the reputation of someone long dead.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 2:59pm GMT

"We are though - or at least should be - a church. Our role NEVER is to judge. Our responsibility is the care of victims."

This statement is flat wrong. It creates a false dichotomy between pastoral care and the search for truth.

If the church merely presumes the truth of serious allegations, then the church risks being enlisting in victimising yet more innocent people.

Abuse has victims, yes, of course. But so do slander and charges that turn out, after proper investigation, to be false.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 4:01pm GMT

Jeremy, you can't slander the dead. That's why the Bell case is so important because it highlights the wrong thinking which can be obscured in other cases.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 22 February 2018 at 10:09pm GMT

Kate, as the Bell case clearly demonstrates, the dead often have friends and relatives who are alive.

If a false charge is made against a dead person, are these living friends and relatives not victimised?

Or is your position that false charges against dead people are permissible for therapeutic purposes?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 23 February 2018 at 12:02am GMT

Kate: it may be correct that as a matter of civil law one cannot slander the dead, in the sense that there is no legal remedy (such as the executors of the deceased person being able to sue the defamer for damages), but that is no justification for the Church paying attention only to the care of the complainant. (Note: not a 'victim' unless and until the complaint, after applying the appropriate burden and standard of proof after a full and proper investigation, has been found to be proved: see Carlile para 26.)

As Jeremy points out, a dead person may have friends and relatives who are, in effect, victimised by a false allegation. Lord Carlile addressed this issue at para 46 of his report:
"... the reputations of the dead are not without value. This applies as much to those who have lived ordinary lives as to those who have been famous. A moment's thought makes it plain that none of us would wish to be vilified after our deaths when we could no longer defend ourselves. Further, the pain caused to those who have loved and respected the alleged perpetrator, on hearing that a shocking allegation has been accepted as true, cannot just be discounted. If one imagines for a moment that the Bishop 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."

The Church is enjoined to 'act justly' as well as to love mercy (Micah 6 verse 8). It does not act justly if it regards the interests of the deceased person and his or her relatives and friends as of no importance.

Posted by: David Lamming on Friday, 23 February 2018 at 9:53am GMT

Thank you, Edward Prebble for wanting to hear more female voices. I've been following the story to some extent. Really, all I can say is that the process seems dreadful for everyone. I can't know the truth, my concerns are for justice for all and especially victims. If this case is botched, then what does that mean for current and future victims? And in the rare case that someone is falsely accused, how do they restore their reputations if the church doesn't practice confidentiality during an investigation? To be clear, the major issue is that historically, victims have been silenced and perpetrators have gotten off, rather than false accusations, but a process with integrity really needs to be followed for everyone's sake. Couldn't violating confidentiality actually impinge an investigation?

I also don't believe that pastoral responses for the victims are in conflict with justice. Turn the investigation over to independent forces and let the church be pastoral towards those hurting. Doesn't seem that hard...

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 25 February 2018 at 7:51pm GMT

Thank you, Cynthia, for your measured comment. You say,"Turn the investigation over to independent forces." Many of us who have been critical of the Church's official responses to the Carlile report would agree. It is why we are pressing the case for the "independent investigation" into the '"fresh information" that the NST (National Safeguarding Team) statement of 31 January 2018 said the Core Group was "now in the process of commissioning", to be carried out by a retired circuit judge with criminal law experience, or by a senior criminal QC.

As yet, no announcement has been made naming the investigator, giving his/her terms of reference, or setting a date by which the investigator's report should be delivered.

Posted by: David Lamming on Monday, 26 February 2018 at 1:48pm GMT

It is perhaps material to this discussion that paragraph 19 of a submission (dated 14 March 2016) sent to IICSA by solicitors Herbert Smith Freehills LLP action on behalf of the Archbishops Council of the Church of England (see reads - on the subject of anonymity:

"So far as individuals against whom allegations have been made are concerned, different considerations may apply. However, if no finding has been made (in criminal proceedings or otherwise) as to the truth of these allegations, and they are not already in the public domain, the Council suggests that any disclosure of identity (whether to the public or Core Participants) should be the result of a fully considered decision. The Council would therefore suggest that, if the Inquiry is contemplating such disclosure, it should give reasonable prior notice, at least to the person from whom the information in question was obtained, which would help to ensure that there is an opportunity for any relevant representations to be made."

The actual authors of the submission are listed as barristers Nigel Griffin QC and Madeleine Reardon.

Both the date and content of this submission are interesting, as is the quality of legal representation, and the fact that this is being advanced on behalf of the Archbishops Council.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Thursday, 1 March 2018 at 5:50pm GMT

Mark - yes, and as to terminology, leading counsel to the Anglican church investigation part of IICSA, Fiona Scolding QC, said at the last preliminary hearing on 30 January 2018, "In line with other preliminary hearings, where it is necessary to do so, I will generally refer to those who have made allegations of sexual abuse as "complainants", save where there has been a criminal trial which has resulted in a conviction or where the fact of abuse has otherwise been formally established, in which case the description "victim" or "survivor" will be applied, depending upon the individual's personal preference."

By contrast, the C of E still persists in using the terms 'victim' or 'survivor' (albeit prefaced, where appropriate, by the word 'alleged'), rather than 'complainant' as clearly recommended by Lord Carlile in paragraph 292 of his report, relying on the fact that "the Church seeks to follow best practice in this area, and when we look at the practice in the NHS, within the police and the education sector, within most local authorities, we have aligned ourselves with the best practice in those statutory authorities." [Bishop of Bath & Wells in answer to a supplementary question (Q.46) at General Synod on 8 February 2018.]

This begs the question whether the NHS etc are adopting 'best practice'. It's certainly not best practice as recommended by Lord Carlile or by Sir Richard Henriques (in his 'Operation Midland' report for the Metropolitan Police).

Bishop Peter Hancock did then add: "It is a question that we continue to review. It’s a question that has not been finally resolved, but that’s the situation at the moment." Perhaps, following Fiona Scolding, the Church can now give a lead in changing its practice and terminology.

Posted by: David Lamming on Thursday, 1 March 2018 at 9:21pm GMT
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.