Comments: Bishop George Bell: new information reported

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

"Independent"?

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

Very strong statement from Alex Carlile.

Posted by TP at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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.

[snark]

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

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

Posted by Paul Waddington at 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 at 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 at 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 at Friday, 2 February 2018 at 12:29am GMT

Why not - Lord Carlile?

Posted by Father David at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at 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 at Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 3:27pm GMT
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