Comments: Sussex Police close their investigation into Bishop George Bell

Belatedly, appears that the local constabulary have remembered that it's not their job to prosecute corpses. Better late than never, I guess.

We now await the findings of the church's investigation, which will hopefully report in before the crack of doom; it'd also be good if it could consider the mere possibility of Bell's innocence.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 3:54pm BST

If the police have decided to do nothing further, why is the church continuing to pursue this? It cannot pretend that it has an expertise not available to the police. Or is this a distraction from having to further account for the complete c***k up revealed by the Carlile report with further procrastination.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Monday, 23 April 2018 at 6:48pm BST

The cloak and dagger approach by the Church of England - to this and other matters of possible slander against a member of the clergy does nothing to dispel the atmosphere of mistrust that is often engendered against people whose lives, in every other respect, have been found blameless. Post-mortem accusations achieve little for the wellbeing of either the complainant or the Church. Let's all hope that God's judgement will be kind to us all.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 12:03am BST

My answer to @Richard Ashby's question is that the C of E cannot bring itself to say that the Head of its National Safeguarding Team, who oversaw the George Bell process, is incompetent. In my view, he should have resigned (or been sacked) immediately after the publication of the Carlile report. But to have done so would have created an unwelcome 'wobble' just before the IICSA turned its attention to the C of E, and (more likely than not) drew attention to the fact that its processes are still flawed and its personnel incompetent. Meanwhile, I am happy to report that I have sung Bishop Bell's fine hymn 'Christ is the King, O friends rejoice' three times since Easter in three different churches, which is a remarkable testimony to the degree to which those 'on the ground' are keeping faith with this brave and holy man.

Posted by Graham Hardy at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 2:43pm BST

"A spokeswoman for the Church of England’s national safeguarding team said that they had been conducting their own separate investigation..." That's alright then. After all, this is a body that cuts procedural corners, ignores readily available evidence, and has shown itself more than capable of reaching unfounded conclusions in order to protect its reputation. I can sleep easily now.

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 3:01pm BST

Of course the police are not investigating : Bishop Bell is dead, cannot be prosecuted and no third party has been implicated. Since he is dead they obviously have no safeguarding concerns.

However, all of that is entirely irrelevant to whether the allegations against Bishop Bell are true or false and it is entirely wrong to infer this either vindicates Bishop Bell or impugns the CofE investigation.

Posted by Kate at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 4:01pm BST

Kate, the Sussex Police statement impugns the C of E investigation for the very reason you give. Since George Bell is dead (and has been for 60 years) and, as you say, the police can have no safeguarding concerns, it raises the question why the National Safeguarding Team (NST) involved them at all and announced publicly on 31 January 2018, in a statement condemned by Lord Carlile, that they had done so ("The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell. Sussex Police have been informed and we will work collaboratively with them." See:

The inference that has been drawn, understandably (whether or not correctly), is that the NST referred the matter to the police and stated they had done so in order to give the impression that there is more to the 'new information' (the details of which remain unknown) than is the case.

If the NST is working 'collaboratively' with Sussex Police, perhaps they will now tell us how the police decision affects their own investigation. Further, since Sussex Police told the NST in March that the matter is now closed as far as they are concerned (having assessed the new information and carried out a proportionate investigation within two months of the matter being referred to them by the NST on 30 January 2018), perhaps, too, the NST can reveal how it is progressing with its investigation and the timescale set for it to be completed. (Note: it was Sussex Police, not the NST, who revealed that "the matter is now closed as far as Sussex Police are concerned and the Church of England have been informed of this.")

Posted by David Lamming at Tuesday, 24 April 2018 at 11:33pm BST

'Post-mortem accusations achieve little for the wellbeing of either the complainant or the Church'

The Church's handling of the Bell accusations has been disgraceful, from the first allegation being dismissed without investigation, to the later highly incompetent investigation, to its response to the Carlile report, and its reporting of 'new information'.

Justice for the accused is equally important as justice for victims. And it's of vital importance, whether the accused is dead or alive. For complainants it very much matters that a thorough investigation is carried out with honesty and integrity. There is healing in the truth being acknowledged openly. Why else would the psalmist so often pray for vindication?

Posted by Janet Fife at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 8:55am BST

David, that's really unfair to NST. They are criticised if they don't promptly report matters to the police; you are criticising them for doing so. Without knowing the full circumstances, we don't know why they did but, in their place, I would do so in case the police could identify any collaborators. Just because the police have concluded that they don't need to be involved, does not mean that they should not have been informed in the first place.

Also, the NST has a much broader responsibility than the police. For example, they need to determine whether there are any indications of structural failures and, we would all hope, to consider whether anyone knew about the allegations but failed to address them appropriately.

Again, there is nothing in the police statement that impugns NST.

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 10:14am BST

'There is healing in the truth being acknowledged openly.' More wise words from Janet Fife, for which I am grateful.

Talking about truth and openness, has anyone seen this?

I was absolutely staggered. It shows that, whatever we have learned (or not) from safeguarding failures, the culture of institutional dissembling goes very, very deep indeed. If I were a clergy person I would be afraid. Very afraid.

Posted by Bill Broadhead at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 12:44pm BST

Yes, Bill, and I am about to publish a TA article that links to that story. It deserves its own thread here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Wednesday, 25 April 2018 at 1:00pm BST

I notice that several days have now passed since this joyful St. George's Day news about Bishop George Bell has been made public and no reference has yet been made to it on the Chichester Diocesan Website! Hopefully this is a significant step along the way in restoring the good name and reputation of one of Chichester's greatest bishops! Now all we need is the mysterious "fresh information" to be revealed and the "significant cloud" to be lifted.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 26 April 2018 at 4:39am BST
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