Comments: Independent review into handling of George Bell case

This is good news, though it must be a cautious welcome until we see the Terms of Reference. A number of questions about the Bell case have been put down for answer at General Synod in York on 8th July and there is to be a debate about safeguarding in the House of Lords this Thursday, 30th June, on a motion by Lord Lexden (a member of the George Bell Group that produced the Review in March 2016 calling for an independent inquiry) that "this House takes note of the case for introducing statutory guidelines relating to the investigation of cases of historical child sex abuse." It will be of particular interest to see what is said about the Bell case in that debate by the Bishop who responds.

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 28 June 2016 at 6:08pm BST

Leave the judgement to God.The Lord is fair and doesn't make mistakes.

Posted by robert ian williams at Thursday, 30 June 2016 at 7:07am BST

It does seem rather extraordinary that, even in the context of the announcement of this Independent Review, Bishop Warner persists in calling the claimant ['Carol']in this case "the survivor".
Surely the whole point of the review is to consider the soundness of the process by which the Diocese of Chichester came to accept the Claimant's claim, against the background of many well-informed voices arguing that the procedure followed was manifestly unsound.
In this context it begs the question, and some would say suggests a closed mind on the subject, still to refer to 'Carol' as "the survivor" [whatever the true underlying facts might be].
Justice surely requires that in this context at least she should be called "the Claimant", or "the Complainant", and not more than that.

Posted by Papa Luna at Thursday, 30 June 2016 at 12:25pm BST

Papa Luna is right but, despite the announced review, the Church continues to resist accepting that their finding against Bishop Bell may be wrong.

During the debate in the House of Lords, calling for “the introduction of statutory guidelines relating to the investigation of cases of historical child sex abuse”, several speeches were highly critical of the both the inquiry by a “Core Group” that led to the settlement with ‘Carol’ and the terms of the statement of 22 October 2015 in which that settlement was reported. Lord Dear (former HM Inspector of Constabulary) described the statement as “as “slippery” and “disingenuous”. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said that the Church’s procedures in the Bell case had “the character of a kangaroo court.”

In his speech, Bishop Stephen Cottrell (duty bishop for the week) said that “It also happens now to be standard practice for us to do such reviews when a Bishop has been accused”, but, if that is true, it begs the question why the review, the terms of which have yet to be announced, was not announced at least six months ago, shortly after the 22 October 2015 statement.

It appears, too, that the review will only look at “the processes used in the George Bell case”, not the validity of the conclusion that led to the settlement with Carol, despite the powerful points made by the George Bell Group in their Review (www.georgebellgroup.org/review/ and "Group challenges naming of Bishop George Bell as a paedophile - on this website, 20 March 2016) and reiterated in the debate, referring to evidence, not considered by the Core Group, that seriously undermines their conclusion and suggests that Bishop Bell has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. To the contrary, Bishop Cottrell said that “the Church remains satisfied of the credibility of the allegation.” He also indicated that the Church could not say more for fear of breaching the “survivor’s” confidentiality, a view that has been challenged by His Honour Alan Pardoe QC and Desmond Browne QC in a legal opinion posted on the George Bell Group website.

As mentioned in my post on 28 June, the issue will be raised at General Synod at York on 8 July 2016. Several questions have been put down for answer, including one for the Church Commissioners relating to the funding of the settlement with Carol (she was paid £15,000). A Private Member’s Motion (PMM) has been lodged and will be open for signature, which starts, “this Synod regret that it can have no confidence in the investigation conducted on behalf of the Church of England into the allegations against the late Bishop Bell, by reason of its lack of transparency and accountability.”

Posted by David Lamming at Monday, 4 July 2016 at 8:59am BST
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