Church apology over Bishop George Bell abuse inquiry

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George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958

The Church of England has apologised to the relatives of a bishop for the way it investigated child abuse claims made against him decades after his death.

Former Bishop of Chichester George Bell, who died in 1958, was alleged to have repeatedly abused a young girl.

She made a formal complaint in 1995 and, 10 years later, won an apology and compensation from the Church.

A report into the handling of the case due to be published later is expected to be critical of the Church’s actions.

Ahead of the publication of Lord Carlile’s report, the current Bishop of Chichester the Right Reverend Martin Warner praised the “dignity and integrity” of Bishop Bell’s accuser, but said the Church inquiry paid “inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead”.

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Lord Carlile will reveal his review’s findings later on Friday

The allegations against George Bell were first made by the victim, known as “Carol”, in 1995, but were not investigated or referred to the police.

She said the bishop began abusing her when she was five and molested her in Chichester Cathedral as she sat listening to stories.

Carol said the abuse continued for about four years.

In 2013 she wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at which point the matter was referred to the police.

Two years later the Church paid £16,800 in an out of court settlement and apologised to Carol.

However, the “George Bell Group” of supporters of the former bishop sought and gained a review into how the Church arrived at that decision.

Lord Carlile will publish the review’s findings at 10:00 GMT on Friday.

‘Principle of innocence’

In a statement issued on Thursday evening, Bishop Warner said: “We welcome Lord Carlile’s assessment of our processes, and apologise for failures in the work of the Core Group of national and diocesan officers and its inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead.

“The emotive principle of innocent until proven guilty is a standard by which our actions are judged and we have to ensure as best we can that justice is seen to be done.

“Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor, or victim, ‘Carol’ emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity.

“It is essential that her right to privacy continues to be fully respected.”

The Church also repeated its apology for failing to report Carol’s allegations to the police when she first came forward in 1995.

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