Comments: Publication of Bishop George Bell independent review

Am I alone in being somewhat nauseated by the three statements in response to the report. It seems that those responsible still have no qualms about attacking those unable to defend themselves and the weasel words trying to add balance leave me cold

Posted by Simon D at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 12:37pm GMT

Report published on a Friday afternoon, as predicted?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 12:38pm GMT

Wow.

So, after being told in no uncertain terms that the accusations had been thoroughly investigated, that Bell was probably guilty, and that to question this was to increase the complaint's suffering, it turns out that there wasn't even sufficient evidence to lay charges.

And the official response to this finding? Mealy-mouthed half-apologies and a refusal to accept that Bell should never have been publicly named. I can't even pretend to be surprised.

I hope that all those who told me, with equal force, that I was wrong not to trust the diocese will now reconsider that position.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 1:22pm GMT

In other walks of life, resignations would follow. Or dismissals.

Posted by Stanley Monkhouse at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 1:35pm GMT

What baffles me is that, having commissioned this report from Lord Carlile, no attempt has been made to take the next logical step and weigh the possibility of guilt. Martyn Percy's recent piece about the failure to consult Bishop Bell's diaries (he was allegedly out of the country on one of the dates given by Carol), or to talk to surviving relatives and colleagues, means that the scope of the Carlile report has, in effective, left Bishop Bell guilty until proved innocent.

As for transparency and naming, if this had happened in Ireland, or most other European states, the C of E would have been prosecuted for naming someone who has not been found guilty of an offence after judicial process. Given that the available evidence was not sufficient to prosecute, are not Peter Hancock's and Justin Welby's protestations about transparency completely empty?

I was delighted to see that, on the feast of Christ the King, the Sung Eucharist at Chichester Cathedral included Bell's magnificent hymn 'Christ is the King, O friends rejoice.' Perhaps it is now time to also restore his name to the school of which he was once patron?

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 1:51pm GMT

Despite a clear message from the foremost legal expert in the country, the church authorities are still in effect insisting that Bell was guilty - in other words they are not willing to apologise for their grotesque error of judgement. Sadly Lord Carlile's work is wasted on such people. Let's have some "transparency" now about the Iwerne case. And what about the Dame Heather Steel review, still unpublished?

Posted by Alan Marsh at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 2:11pm GMT

No, Simon D, you are not alone - nauseated sums up my reaction too. Welby's response does not surprise me, sadly, but I would have expected better from Warner, who quotes the presumption of innocence principle, then seems to wave it airily aside. I hope the George Bell Group feel suitably proud of their campaign defending the late bishop against this abuse of process.

Posted by Marc S at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 2:29pm GMT

No, you are not alone, Simon D. I find the responses so shocking in their cold lack of apology or compassion for the family, that I think some people should be considering their position, starting at the top.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 2:59pm GMT

No, Simon D, you are not alone. As for why not, just look at Bishop Peter Hancock's sentence that begins "At the heart of this case." In that entire sentence there is only one word casting doubt--"whether"--and that word is quite distant, in the sentence, from its very judgmental conclusion.

To pile insult on injury, Bishop Martin Warner then adds, "[i]rrespective of whether [Carol] is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim...."

In other words, the Bishop is ignoring one of Lord Carlile's key recommendations. It appears that the CofE will continue to use language that assumes that a complaint is truthful, before even investigating whether it is. Of course this puts the cart before the horse, and creates the risk of miscommunication, groupthink, and rushing to wrong judgment.

The Bishop Bell case demonstrates, if nothing else has, that very serious harm to innocent people, and very great reputational damage to the Church of England, can result from the loose use of loaded terms.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 4:34pm GMT

Are there any instances where the CofE has named living people against whom accusations have been made? Or does it only do "transparency" when someone is dead, and can't sue?

Posted by Alan Marsh at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 5:31pm GMT

I still maintain there is a difference between an appropriate legal / secular response to the allegations, and a Christian one. Lord Carlile has produced a report which defines the former and outlines that the Church didn't follow it. For once I find myself in agreement with the Archbishop of Canterbury and support his decision not to apologise for the emphasis placed on supporting Carol, an emphasis I still believe is the correct, Christian response.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 6:43pm GMT

Yes, the response from the top IS shocking; but it is hardly surprising. This is all-of-a-piece with the 'Hire them and Fire Them' culture at Lambeth. Only it seems as if it is all one-way traffic. I doubt that we will see an archiepiscopal resignation over this one - and the refusal to accept Lord Carlile's admonition is astonishing in its arrogance.

To be fair to Martin Warner, his statement will have had to have been approved by Pyongyang, and there can be no dissent from what the Beloved Leader has decreed. Absolutely sickening.

Who will now do the proper research and lay bare the truth?

Posted by Bill Broadhead at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 6:59pm GMT

My contribution to this is minuscule, though slightly relevant historically.

In 1950, I told my vicar, that I wanted to “go into the church”, as the saying was in those days.

So I was duly interviewed by a kindly old buffer who saw right through me and out the other side but nevertheless reckoned I’d be OK as a clergyman (the term “priest” wasn’t used generally then).

It wasn’t until years later that I realised I’d had 15 minutes with the legendary Bp George Bell. I can’t remember a word he said, but what does stand out in my memory is my vicar’s excitement at my enabling him to meet with a great and universally respected cleric, about whom there was clearly no breath of suspicion.

Posted by Michael Skliros at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 7:16pm GMT

One aspect of this that has not been mentioned at all (as far as I can see) is the question of what will happen to the buildings etc that were previously named after Bishop Bell and were to be renamed. Is that still going ahead? If so, is not the C of E in effect still passing a judgement of guilty on Bishop Bell?

The responses so far by Welby, Warner and Hancock are utterly inadequate, which is remarkable given how long they have had to read the report and plan what to say. They (and others) seriously messed up and this shouldn't be brushed off so casually. ALL of Lord Carlile's recommendations should be carefully considered by General Synod. It should not be up to the people who made this mess in the first place to decide which recommendations are to be considered and which are to be ignored.

Posted by David Chillman at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 7:43pm GMT

What I find intolerable in the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments is the remark 'He is also accused of great wickedness'. Having read through thoroughly from beginning to end the Carlile report I find it incredible that that bald statement can still be made. At the very least the tense of the verb should have been changed.

Posted by Marian Birch at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 7:52pm GMT

Welby's commitment to transparency is truly remarkable. So remarkable that the decision was made to release Alex Carlile's report the day AFTER Radio 4's Today programme was invited in to Lambeth Palace. Welby so values transparency that he decisively and deliberately manipulated the release of this report to avoid having to answer questions from an experienced journalist like Nick Robinson. This must be an example of what Welby means when he talks so easily about 'faithfulness to Jesus Christ.' Truly remarkable.

Posted by Simon R at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 10:15pm GMT

Re Marian Birch, "What I find intolerable in the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments is the remark 'He is also accused of great wickedness'. "

Consistency and attempts to stay on message are hallmarks of modern public relations. Notice that the ABC's comment ( who knows who may have drafted it for him) attempts to set the findings of the report alongside the original accusations. This is an attempt to change the channel back from the Carlile report's findings on the church's mishandling of events to the allegations themselves.

Notice the tense of the verb, " is accused". This is correct. There are (present tense)accusations. This kind of framing side steps how the accusations, which are now past tense in terms of process, have been (mis)handled by church authorities.

Historians will have their say eventually after current actors have left the stage. It maybe that via some sort of access to information request made by a media outlet in some future day (assuming documentation remains on file) that greater clarity will prevail.

This report would appear, at the very least,
to keep the door open to a more objective evaluation of Bishop Bell in some future day.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 10:30pm GMT

As for the conduct in the matter of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, see Lord Carlile's report at pages 67-68, paras 262-68.

Of course this assessment comes very near the end of a report that was released on a Friday. Fortunately The Times was not fooled. Their headline is "Welby criticised over handling of historic child abuse case".

In this regard, note especially paragraph 265: "Once the Bishop Bell decision was made, he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] felt passionately that the Church should be transparent."

I wonder whether the Archbishop would have "felt" so "passionately" about "transparen[cy]" had the accused been a living person. This is the question that Alan Marsh asks, several comments above. I think he is right to ask it.

After reading much of the report, I am left with the impression that from the point of view of the Church of England hierarchy, because Bishop Bell was dead, and could not sue for defamation, he became an excellent scapegoat.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 11:35pm GMT

For once we all seem to agree!

Posted by RevDave at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 11:36pm GMT

Bishop Bell's case is not too different from many in which the Church has taken complaints against clergy as being proof - of themselves - of culpability - preferring to trust the words of the complainant against that of the accused.

This happens in other Churches of the Anglican Communion (and, I'm sure, in other Churches). The sadness, in this case, is that Bishop Bell - an otherwise exemplary model of Christian virtue -
has been maligned without the opportunity to speak in his own defence. Surely, without actual proof of culpability, this is immoral & unjust?

Mind our Blessed Redeemer was not immune to such instances of unjust accusations. Bishop Bell is perhaps the possible latest "Imitatio Christi".

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 15 December 2017 at 11:57pm GMT

I think some commentators are underestimating the difficulty of balancing conflicting imperatives in this case. Certainly there is rightly a desire not to see a good man defamed, but there is also rightly a desire to ensure that survivors of abuse can have the confidence to come forward knowing that they will be believed. Too often people making accusations of abuse against the powerful have been dismissed as liars or fantasists. A lot of people here are quick to condemn the ABC's handling (and you'll not often see me rushing to his defence) but in doing so seem to be dismissing the allegations. I have to confess to never having heard of George Bell prior to the allegations but it seems to me that, given the choice between having his reputation tarnished unjustly or keeping it pristine but potentially dissuading genuine survivors of other clerical abuse from coming forward is he not precisely the sort of man who would choose the latter?

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 8:21am GMT

What an utterly repugnant statement by Justin Welby. In response to a report that specifically doesn't deal with the guilt or innocence of Bishop Bell, Welby goes out of his way to muddy the waters by dwelling on the accusations. Rather than deal with the CofE's failures, (and his own), he chooses to focus on the original accusations, to try to shift the attention onto alleged actions of others, rather than the actual failures of the organisation he purports to lead. A new low for the lack of moral authority of the current Ab of C?

Posted by Chead at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 8:45am GMT

"For once we all seem to agree!"

Hmmm, I'm not sure the comments so far quite do it for me.

I agree with the issue of deeply damaging process.

However, no mention or concern at all seems to have been expressed for the poor woman who is the "object" of this case - the woman who may have been abused and whose life may have been deeply harmed.

I use the term 'may'. Same as we would have used it about Savile until evidence was provided and the case made clear.

We have gone to great lengths here to defend the sanctity and reputation of someone who has an otherwise great and good reputation.

We say nothing about a poor woman. How is she feeling with the release of this report? How has she been let down by the process too? Does she not have the right to raise a complaint of grievous abuse?

The process for dealing with complaints needs urgent review. But let's also spare thoughts for the woman too. So far we have said nothing in this thread about her.

I think that is inadequate.

Calling out powerful people is always incredibly difficult and intimidating. In a sense (and where I agree with the comments above) we need a process that makes this more helpful, more decent, and more protective of victims too. This shambles has turned her case into a circus and that possibly really puts off other men and women from coming forward when they may have suffered disgusting abuse.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 8:53am GMT

It’s clear from reading the report that the accusations were badly handled from the beginning and that once the accusations were in the hands of the ‘core group’, members not only lacked commitment to prioritise their participation but they lamentably failed in their duty to determine the facts. Clearly the whole exercise has been a tragic incompetent farce, made worse by the obstinacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s continuing stubbornness in appearing to insist that Bishop Bell was, in fact, guilty, when in the end there is still only the testimony of one person with no corroborating evidence.

The curious thing which remains is why the enquiry didn’t actually have within its remit the investigation of the allegations themselves. It’s clear enough, reading between the lines, that in investigating how the Church handled the allegations they discovered enough to challenge their veracity. It’s almost as if, having received the allegations, and being panicked by the lamentable failure to deal with them in 1995 when they were first made, the Church decided that it had to publicly pronounce Bell guilty and sacrifice his reputation in the altar of their incompetence.

None of this is meant to diminish the veracity of the complainant. But a proper investigation may well have led to other conclusions and a much more satisfactory out come for all parties.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 9:39am GMT

Of course, what this whole episode also shows is that the Church remains unable to competently investigate complaints made against its clergy and others and that the only way forward is independent enquiry into all such allegations. Only then can justice be seen to be done.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 9:50am GMT

Father Ron, to my mind "proof" connotes liability.

The testimony of a complainant is usually evidence.

Whether in this case Carol's testimony would amount to proof is the question that the Core Group mishandled, and that was not in Lord Carlile's remit.

In this case we may never know the answer to the question of guilt or innocence. We do have Lord Carlile's conclusions as to process.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 10:15am GMT

[the Church of England] would only be reverting to the principle upon which justice is based – that a person is innocent unless proved guilty. It says it accepts the report’s finding that its procedures were wrong. In morality and logic, it must concede that its decision to destroy Bell was wrong too.

This, I had expected, was what Archbishop Welby would now do. He is a brave man and I know, from conversations with him, that he is deeply anguished both by child abuse and by false accusations of child abuse. He tries harder than most princes of the Church to get alongside those who suffer.

Yet this is what he said on Friday. After acknowledging the failure of Church procedures, the Archbishop spoke of Bell’s “great achievement” as a defender of the persecuted and added: ‘We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name … He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.”

I’m afraid this is a shocking answer. The Archbishop must know that what people now think about the accusations depends very much on him. His own report tells him they were believed on grossly inadequate grounds. Does he cling to that belief or not?

He invites us to balance the good and evil deeds of men; but there is no balance here. The good Bell did is proved. The evil is an uncorroborated accusation believed by the religious authorities because it makes their life easier. We have been here before – in the life of Jesus, and in the reason for his unjust death.

Charles Moore in the Telegraph


Posted by Jill Armstead at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 10:59am GMT

In other -- not totally unrelated -- news, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has given its final report to the Governor General of Australia. The RC has been a very thorough five years of steady investigation into institutions caring for children that will no doubt interest readers concerned with the state of affairs around the handling of matters around Bishop Bell.

The final report is voluminous at seventeen volumes. But it is practically required reading for anyone interested in institutional failures over sexual abuse instanced in some very important Anglican institutions in Australia. I append links to the relevant case studies:

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-20-hutchins-school

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-32-geelong-grammar-school

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-34-brisbane-grammar-school-and-st-pauls-school

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-36-church-england-boys-society

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-42-anglican-diocese-newcastle

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-52-institutional-review-anglican-church-authorities

The closing address of the final sitting is also worth watching or reading in full, not least because it points to the scope and scale of the changes still needed across a broad part of Australian institutional life.

https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/final-sitting-december-2017-sydney

Posted by Victoriana at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 11:24am GMT

Charles Moore in today's Telegraph (Saturday 16 December) is not impressed by the Church's response to the Carlile Report. I don't imagine Peter Hitchens will be too impressed either. Or any of those who campaigned for the Report to take place. The ABC may think his spin machine has got him off the hook, but he has succeeded only in making matters worse.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 11:28am GMT

"This shambles has turned her case into a circus and that possibly really puts off other men and women from coming forward when they may have suffered disgusting abuse."

Absolutely right, Susannah. "Carol" was subjected to this scrutiny by the decision to publicly condemn Bell after the church took it upon itself to run a cold case investigation: a decision fueled, it appears, by Welby's feelings.

Bell should never have been named; and, as I've said previously, "Carol" should've been compensated for the bungled handling of her complaint in the '90s and later. Here, justice for Bell would also have been justice for his accuser -- the two are inseparable.

As for Jo's suggestion, I'll let Caiaphas field this: "Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 12:33pm GMT

As an elected Officer of the General Synod, this is a disturbing and important report. The Church of England has to face up to its failings and, without being mealy-mouthed, needs to learn lessons.

What matters here is not so much the reputation of a much-loved, heroic bishop - such a person must be judged by the same standard as the most incompetent, unpopular clergy person the Church of England chooses to ordain. They won't have media clergy, outraged journalists and pro bono lawyers rushing to defend them. But they are entitled to the same robust process as George Bell should have been entitled to. That is more important in my view than the reputation of Bell. His accuser remains convinced that he was responsible for abusing her. That now forms part of the narrative of remembrance and biography, irrespective of the contested facts and that will always remain. I am glad "Carol" felt able to come forward and the church needs to do nothing that will prevent that for future complainants (this, I think, is at the root of the unwillingness to accept the recommendation of confidentiality). I welcome the church's revision of its use of language: we need to talk of complainants not victims until a finding is established, be it criminal or civil.

Lord Carlile makes it clear that the burden of proof in this case is not the criminal, but the civil standard. That burden is not insignificant, however. Facts need to be established (and the rush to judgment is rightly criticised). But cool heads will also recognise that such decisions are not come to lightly and I welcome the finding of good faith, even if questions of competency are inevitably raised. We must remember that many, indeed most safeguarding cases are handled professionally and well. Hard cases are that for a reason. Maybe in such cases allowing the civil proceedings to run is a better course of judgment: the courts have their place.

As someone who knows what it is to be let down by inadequate safeguarding procedures, I'm confident that there is life beyond accusation and, although I will never forget the harm the church has done to me (that is a strong, but necessary, word), I know that the people of God are a community of healing. One hopes that, in the midst of human frailty, institutional process and the complexities of memory, reputation and trauma, we can all find the truth that sets us free.

Posted by Simon Butler at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 12:42pm GMT

Correction: my previous post should of course read "choose the former" rather than "choose the latter".

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 12:51pm GMT

To Jo and Susannah I would say that the law already encourages complainants to come forward because it permits them to remain anonymous. I believe that in this regard, UK law is quite unusual.

There was a different news report yesterday of a rape prosecution that "fell apart" because the police failed to give the prosecutor exculpatory evidence.

Perhaps, rather than risk innocent people being defamed, we should consider what that young man went through?

As for what Bishop Bell would have thought, I'm fairly certain he would have sided with the innocent--both the victim and the wrongly accused. Of course this begs the question.

Bishop Bell certainly does not seem to have thought that two wrongs make a right, or that systems should sacrifice individuals.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 3:12pm GMT

The supporters of Bomber Harris and Lord Portal *still* trying to pull down a saintly person?

Posted by Ex Revd at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 5:45pm GMT

Simon, naming the accused without proof is the last way to encourage complainants to come forward: as happened here, the accused's supporters rally around, and subject the complaint to forensic scrutiny.

Complainants are far likelier to feel supported by the CoE listening sensitively, investigating thoroughly, and giving prompt compensation in proven cases of abuse.

Denying justice to any party only goes to ensure injustice for all.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 6:05pm GMT

Simon, naming the accused without proof is the last way to encourage complainants to come forward: as happened here, the accused's supporters rally around, and subject the complaint to forensic scrutiny.

Complainants are far likelier to feel supported by the CoE listening sensitively, investigating thoroughly, and giving prompt compensation in proven cases of abuse.

Denying justice to any party only goes to ensure injustice for all.

Posted by James Byron at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 6:05pm GMT

Reading the Carlisle report today, the thing that struck me most powerfully is that it MUST be read alongside Dame Moira Gibb’s report on Peter Ball (June 2017). The failures (the most charitable word) of Eric Kemp in the early 1990s described in Gibb are mirrored in Carlisle (80-96): the failure to disclose, poor record keeping, making judgements on reputational grounds, investigating the complainant rather than addressing the complaint – just as with Ball – so too in this case.

Taking the two reports together, I was struck by what they say about privileging reputations, first from Carlisle:

(56) On the other hand, I am troubled by the fact that from careful study of their Minutes the Core Group appears to have given scant, if any, regard to the important issue of Bishop Bell’s good character. In circumstances in which, by definition, he was unable to defend himself, the high esteem in which he was held, taken together with the lack of any other allegations, should have been given considerable weight.

And this from the Gibb report on Peter Ball:

(3.5.21) There was a campaign of support for Ball from some of his friends, some of whom were well known people in public life. They included Lord Lloyd who was at that time a Lord Justice of Appeal. The thrust of the correspondence received was either to state that the authors had no knowledge of any sexual impropriety on Ball’s part or simply to commend his character and ministry more generally …. (4.6.3) There were many letters of support for Peter Ball around the time of the caution and we know that Bishop Kemp and others organised a campaign to prompt individuals to write such letters …. (5.6.3) We were struck during this review by a manifest culture of deference both to authority figures in the Church, particularly bishops, and to individuals with distinctive religious reputations – or both.

Carol (and in a way so did Bell) deserved from the Church as early as 1995 when she first raised it with the then bishop of Chichester, a proper, fair, rigorous process that would stand up to scrutiny. What we can be sure of now, is that she did not get it.

Posted by Judith Maltby at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 8:59pm GMT

Jeremy: all the child protection training I've ever had has emphasised that one of the biggest fears that prevents reporting of abuse is that of not being believed (a well-founded fear, historically).

Posted by Jo at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 9:42pm GMT

So, is anybody actually going to investigate this? In a post-truth world are we invited to imagine the truth is whatever we prefer? At the least those schools etc renamed away from Bell should be renamed back . Ultimately, I fear, it will be Hollywood who decide what is truth.

Posted by T Pott at Saturday, 16 December 2017 at 11:50pm GMT

Jo — I am sure that what you say is true. But that does not justify credulousness, or naming the accused publicly without a rigorous process to justify that. Which seems to be the point that Lord Carlile made in his report and at the press conference.

Like it or not, false or unfounded accusations have been made in the past and will be made again. This too is a “well-founded fear, historically.”

We who care about proper safeguarding, and civil justice for wrongdoers, do ourselves no favors by suggesting that our cause requires risking the reputations of people who may be innocent.

To be clear, I do not understand you to be saying that.

Posted by Jeremy at Sunday, 17 December 2017 at 1:05am GMT

Believe me, I live with the fear of false allegations every day, working in a profession where I have regular contact with children. My only point that IF, IF the cost of preserving his posthumous reputation was deterring survivors of abuse from coming forward then I took George Bell to be the sort of man who might consider that a price worth paying. It is not a call we can make on behalf of someone else.

False accusations can ruin lives even if the accused is innocent, even if the charges are dropped for lack of evidence or a court returns a not guilty verdict. False accusations made after someone has died damage reputations only and, while that can be extremely upsetting, I would have thought that the same argument applies as does with the living - if there is an accusation that is at least plausible then identifying the accused can itself let other victims (if any) know that they are not alone and give them the courage to come forward and seek help. Where it is different is that when someone has died there is no potential ongoing threat, but often people who helped cover up abuse may still be in positions of authority. It's a situation with no good solutions.

Posted by Jo at Sunday, 17 December 2017 at 2:56pm GMT

If truth's considered expendable, then, as seen by innumerable witch hunts, we can be sure that the spectre of unfounded accusations won't stay confined to the dead.

Besides, even on a raw utilitarian level, Bell's horrifically botched case has done nothing to encourage complainants to come forward: just the opposite.

This isn't a dilemma about which we must wring (then wash) our hands: the case for truth and due process is overwhelming, not just for the accused's sake, but for that of accusers. Presenting it as anything else offers a false choice.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 17 December 2017 at 4:59pm GMT

Lord Carlile made it clear in his report that the Church of England's overriding priority was protecting the Church of England, a fact which Justin Welby amply confirmed by his statement on the report published, in true spin doctor style, on Friday.

In doing so he made it obvious that nothing has really changed, and that is profoundly worrying for everyone who hoped that the Church would ask itself the hard questions about what it exists for. We are left with an institution which simply exists to perpetuate itself by whatever means necessary; it is unsurprising that people are turning away from it...

Posted by Stevie at Sunday, 17 December 2017 at 5:01pm GMT

Judith Maltby's juxtaposition of Gibb and Carlile is instructive. There is, however, a significant difference. In the Peter Ball case there was more than one complainant; and once events became public, other complainants came forward. According to Alex Carlile, once it became public that he was investigating George Bell, not one additional person came forward to make a complaint. That makes the two cases significantly different.

Posted by Peter Knowles at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 8:29am GMT

Was publication of the Carlile report delayed until Friday so that the subject could be changed with the announcement today of the new Bishop of London?

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 11:32am GMT

In all this one thing in particular worries me. The botched (or at least incomplete) "investigation", and Archbishop Welby's "Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good" hides the fact that if Bishop Bell is innocent then somebody else is guilty (if Carol's story is true) and that person has avoided any consequences of their actions.

In all fairness a more competent, thorough investigation into the truth of the matter must be held.

Posted by Alan Jesson at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 11:48am GMT

Peter Knowles' point is rather affected by the difference in time. Ball's abuses were committed in the 70s and 80s, and on into the early 90s. The great difficulty in the Bell case is the lapse of time. "Carol" is now an elderly woman and was a small child at the relevant time. If the allegations were true, it is entirely possible that there were other complainants who have died or are in no fit state to give evidence. I'm not sure we can draw the conclusion that Peter Knowles implies.

There is a separate and wider question about whether limitation periods should be treated quite so generously in abuse cases: it's hard to see how either side can receive a fair hearing at a distance of 70 years.

Is no-one else troubled by the suggestion that the Church should have settled with a confidentiality agreement? Doesn't that look an awful lot like an old-school cover-up?

Posted by Rachel Evans at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 11:53am GMT

"Is no-one else troubled by the suggestion that the Church should have settled with a confidentiality agreement?"

Are you suggesting that the alleged perpetrator be named, in the absence of any civil or criminal finding of liability, and where (per Carlile) the case is "weak"?

It seems to me an excellent way to cause the Church to be sued for defamation.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 12:33pm GMT

Excellent point, Alan: I've long suspected that this may be the case; and it's the kinda thing that a real investigation, conducted by trained professionals, could've uncovered. Yet another example of how due process benefits all parties.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 2:27pm GMT

To say there should not be a confidentiality agreement as a condition of a settlement is not the same as saying that the name of the alleged perpetrator should always, or even often, be published. Imposing a confidentiality agreement in a safeguarding case silences the victim. (Defamation is not realistically an issue - if the individual is alive and denies the allegation, there is likely to be a trial of some kind, or a CDM hearing if a cleric is in question. And the dead cannot be defamed as a matter of law.)

Posted by Rachel Evans at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 5:18pm GMT

Rachel Evans, I agree with your first and fourth sentences.

Your second sentence has force only if the claimant is indeed a "victim." By hypothesis, however, we are talking in part about cases in which there is no criminal trial and no civil trial establishing the accused as an abuser.

As for the third sentence -- "Defamation is not realistically an issue - if the individual is alive and denies the allegation, there is likely to be a trial of some kind, or a CDM hearing if a cleric is in question."

Here I think you have proven my point.

As Carlile said, this approach is just wrong.

Under this approach, the Church would intentionally foist enormous legal costs, emotional stress, and reputational harm on people who may, and only at the end of their defamation cases, establish their innocence.

This approach seems to reflect the view that the Church is entitled to burnish its own safeguarding reputation by calling that of others into question--even the Church besmirches others inaccurately.

Where is the justice in that?

With Carlile, one of the country's leading lawyers, I will continue to think that there has to be some room, in doubtful cases, for settlements that do not name (or otherwise identify) the accused.

And I believe that further intransigence by the Church of England on this issue is self-defeating. It will likely have the result of landing the Church in further legal, political, and public-relations trouble.

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 6:09pm GMT

Well said, Jeremy.

I find it extraordinary that people haven’t even bothered to read the report before launching into their trial by assumptions; no wonder young people, educated in critical thinking, are increasingly unimpressed by the C of E.

It may be that the demise of the C of E as an institution would do more for the spiritual health of the nation than its endurance.

Posted by Stevie at Monday, 18 December 2017 at 7:18pm GMT

There are clear parallels between the cases of Liam Allan, cleared of rape after last-minute disclosure of text messages from the complainant that discredited her evidence, and Bishop George Bell, who was effectively branded a paedophile after what Lord Carlile has found to be an inadequate investigation by the Church of England of allegations of sexual abuse made by a single complainant, first made 37 years after his death.

Both cases highlight an institutional crucial and wrong approach, in one case by the police and the CPS, in the other by the safeguarding team of the Church, namely that the 'victim' must be believed. In their letter to The Times (16 December 2017) the chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association and two of her predecessors make the point that "the theory that everyone who reports a sex offence must be a 'victim' may unconsciously bias the police and CPS against giving complaints the impartial in-depth scrutiny that is essential to avoid injustice that so nearly befell Mr Allan." Lord Carlile has found that there was no such scrutiny of 'Carol's' allegations: one of his conclusions is that "the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on [Bell's] guilt of what Carol alleged" (report, para 254(vi)).

Regrettably, this flawed approach is not new. In a case in 1991 Mr Justice Scott-Baker observed: "It is disappointing that, despite the passage of time since the [1987] Cleveland report, several witnesses had either not read the report at all or, if they had, they ignored its conclusions in many respects. Permeating the whole case is the underlying theme of ‘the child must be believed’. Of course what any child says must be listened to and taken seriously, but the professionals must be very careful not to prejudge the issue.": Re E (A Minor)(Child Abuse: Evidence) [1991] 1 FLR 420 at p. 447H. Sir Richard Henriques, in his October 2016 report into the Met Police's 'Operation Midland' (referred to by Lord Carlile), advised that "Throughout the investigative and judicial process those who make complaints should be referred to as 'complainants' and not as 'victims' by the MPS" (para 1.20) and that "The instruction to 'believe a 'victim's account' should cease. It should be the duty of an officer interviewing a complainant to investigate the facts objectively and impartially and with an open mind from the outset of the investigation" (para 1.35).

Perhaps, at last, the message will get home, and justice be secured for those accused of abuse as well as their accusers. The Church, who our Lord requires to "act justly" (Micah 6.8), should be giving the lead.

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 19 December 2017 at 9:29am GMT

That was a rather wilful misreading of my comment - my whole point was that if an alleged perpetrator is still living, there will be a trial (criminal or civil) or a CDM process, or possibly both. Defamation proceedings wouldn't come into it. It's only where an alleged perpetrator is already dead that a case like this one can arise.

On a side note, I see commentators are also sticking the boot into the Church over Elliott's review, but from the opposite side. That case also involves a single complainant and a dead alleged perpetrator, but no-one seems to be rushing to his defence. I can only assume that Great Men are thought to be worthy of entirely different treatment from other accused individuals.

Posted by Rachel Evans at Tuesday, 19 December 2017 at 10:40am GMT

"my whole point was that if an alleged perpetrator is still living, there will be a trial (criminal or civil) or a CDM process, or possibly both."

This is an assumption, and it is manifestly inaccurate.

Cases vary in strength, and prosecutors have limited resources and the discretion to decline to prosecute.

And both a civil trial and a CDM proceeding require a complainant. Not all allegations result in formal proceedings.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 19 December 2017 at 1:22pm GMT

I'm one of those who criticized the church strongly regarding Elliott's review, 'cause doing so is not, in my view, the opposite side: I care about justice for all, and I'm just as passionate that it must be given to survivors of abuse.

Both cases are linked by institutional disregard for individuals, whether they stand accused, or are leveling the accusations. So long as the church puts its reputation first, there'll be justice for none.

Posted by James Byron at Tuesday, 19 December 2017 at 5:56pm GMT

I believe we all agree that the cause of justice was not well served either for 'Carol' or the late, and very long deceased, Bishop Bell. Lord Carlile has gone as far as he could, within his limited remit, to restore some balance of fairness. I believe his recommendations and reasoning about anonymity deserve far more careful consideration - and respect - than they have so far received.

Posted by Rowland Wateridge at Friday, 5 January 2018 at 9:35pm GMT
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