Updated again Friday evening
Two press releases today from the Church of England:
Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead Safeguarding bishop said: “There are ongoing queries and comments around the Bishop Bell case and we would all like this matter to come to a conclusion. However, in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday, I would like to draw your attention to this statement from the National Safeguarding Team. I would ask that we keep all those involved in our thoughts and prayers. Due to the confidential nature of this new information I regret I cannot disclose any further detail until the investigations have been concluded. We are currently developing an action plan in response to Lord Carlile’s independent report which makes a number of considered points as to how to handle such cases in future and we have accepted the main thrust of the recommendations.”
“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. This new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile’s recommendations. The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments. As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.”
See also Church Times report: New Bell material sparks fresh investigation.
In relation to the IICSA hearing yesterday, the transcript of that is available here.
The Church Times report of it is headlined: Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse pores over 75,000 pages about Chichester diocese.
There is also a report in The Tablet.
In relation to the forthcoming General Synod session, the only documents issued relating to Safeguarding are copies of two previously published reports:
GS Misc 1172 An Abuse of Faith relating to Peter Ball
GS Misc 1173 The Independent Review relating to Bishop George Bell
…The Telegraph understands the Church has known about the case for at least a fortnight before making it public 24 hours before the Church House debate…
…Lord Carlile said he was astonished that the Church had gone public with the new claim against Bishop Bell. Among his recommendations was that people accused of abuse should remain anonymous until the allegations are proven.
Lord Carlile said last night: “I am not privy to the information that is referred to in the church’s press release. But I think it was unwise, unnecessary and foolish to issue a press release in relation to something that remains to be investigated and which was not part of the material placed before me over the period of more than a year in which I carried out my review.
“During that period the review was well known and it was open to anybody to place information before me.”
There’s been a further flurry of items during Thursday:
THE Church of England waited six weeks to release an allegation of historic sexual abuse, The Argus can reveal.
The “fresh information” about Bishop George Bell came on Wednesday.
The General Synod is due to discuss Bell’s case next week.
A senior Church of England source said the “fresh information” came to light “within days” of a press conference at Church House on December 15 at which Lord Alex Carlile was damning about the Church’s handling of the affair.
The source said internal discussions were taking place “well before Christmas” on how to handle the new allegations…
…The “fresh information” is believed to be an allegation received by another complainant.
The George Bell affair hit the headlines in mid-December when Lord Carlile accused the Church of unfairly maligning the legacy of one of the 20th century’s most revered churchmen.
At the time Lord Carlile said the Church investigation of Carol’s complaint had been “deficient in several ways”.
He added: “The statement [of October 2015] was wrong, it should never have been issued. I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.”
Yesterday he said: “My clear view, which I’ve expressed to the Church, is that the press release issued yesterday should never have been released.
“It flies in the face of my recommendations.
“I recommended strongly that there should be a case investigated before any announcement was made.”
When informed of the time delay, Lord Carlile pointed out that a demonstration had been planned for yesterday by those seeking an apology from the Church and a full restitution of Bell’s legacy.
Lord Carlile said: “If the timing was deliberate, it’s a disgrace.
“And if it was not deliberate, then it’s incompetent.”