Updated Friday morning with media coverage (scroll down) and again Saturday
The Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team has today issued this:
A ruling by Timothy Briden, a senior ecclesiastical lawyer, relating to fresh information received about the late Bishop George Bell, has been published today. Mr Briden was appointed by the Bishop of Chichester to make an independent assessment of the evidence that had been brought before the core group, the Church’s response to any safeguarding situation…
…The core group took the view that there were no safeguarding issues arising out of the fresh information and Mr Briden concluded that the allegations presented to him were unfounded.
Lessons have already been learnt from this case and we have apologised for mistakes made in our processes. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Chichester have released their own statements.
The full text of the Briden report is available here.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has today issued this:
I apologise unreservedly for the mistakes made in the process surrounding the handling of the original allegation against Bishop George Bell. The reputation of Bishop Bell is significant, and I am clear that his memory and the work he did is of as much importance to the Church today as it was in the past. I recognise this has been an extremely difficult period for all concerned and I apologise equally to all those who have come forward and shared stories of abuse where we have not responded well.
An allegation against the late Bishop George Bell, originally brought in 1995, was made again in 2013 in the context of a growing awareness of how institutions respond to safeguarding cases. A review carried out by Lord Carlile into how the Church of England handled the case concerning Bishop Bell made a significant number of recommendations, and the Church of England accepted almost all of these.
At the end of 2017 several people came forward with further, fresh information following the Carlile review, and after a thorough, independent investigation, nothing of substance has been added to what has previously been alleged. A statement from the National Safeguarding Team explains the processes involved in reaching this latest decision more fully…
The Bishop of Chichester has released this:
…The Carlile report, and this subsequent investigation, have however shown how much we have had to learn about dealing with cases from the distant past. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has already questioned the Church over its response to the Bishop Bell case and the review by Lord Carlile. We expect that their report on our two hearings – to be published later this year – will address further the complex issues that have been raised and will result in a more informed, confident and sensitive handling of allegations of abuse in the future. We have learned much about what makes for better process and continue to do so.
In particular, we have learned that the boundaries of doubt and certainty have to be stated with great care, that the dead and those who are related to them have a right to be represented, and that there must be a balanced assessment of the extent to which it would be in the public interest to announce the details of any allegation.
It became obvious that a more thorough investigation must be made before any public announcement can be considered and that the level of investigation typically undertaken for settlement of a civil claim is not adequate to justify an announcement. It is now clear that if an announcement about any other person is to be made, it must not imply certainty when we cannot be certain. We have also now understood much more besides, in particular about the trust that people place in us and their legitimate expectations of us as guardians of the inheritance of faith.
We recognise the hurt that has been done to all who have been directly involved, including the family of George Bell and those who continue to respect his achievements, as a result of the areas where we have fallen short. We apologise profoundly and sincerely for our shortcomings in this regard. The responsibility for this is a shared one, as are the lessons learnt from it…
Updates – Media coverage
Church Times Archbishop Welby apologises for ‘mistakes’ in case of George Bell. This includes a report of a press briefing held yesterday with extensive quotes from “a Church House spokesman”. There are also quotes from Professor Andrew Chandler, Bell’s biographer. Strongly recommended to read in full.
Times (£) Sex-claims bishop George Bell will get a statue (this refers to a planned statue at Canterbury Cathedral)
Anglican Communion News Service Abuse allegations against the late Bishop George Bell are “unfounded”, inquiry finds
Archbishop Cranmer Martin Sewell and David Lamming How far is Bishop George Bell’s reputation restored? When is a cloud not a cloud? This detailed analysis is also strongly recommended reading.
Telegraph Letter from Dr Ruth Hildebrandt Grayson (scroll down)