The Church of England has issued the following statement from Bishop Peter Hancock, its lead Safeguarding bishop, following the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing on 30 January 3018 and the statement from the National Safeguarding Team. The relevant documents are reproduced below.
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.”
18. ...The inquiry is not, 19 however, going to examine the truth or substance of 20 the allegations made concerning Bishop George Bell.
“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.”
The Carlile Review stated:
“. …Without this understanding of the charging process, the Core Group was in the dark about the criminal aspects of the case. I have been told, and have to accept, that several members of the Core Group ‘had considerable experience of the criminal justice system’. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that they shared, let alone harnessed that experience – which is surprising and disappointing”.
We would hope that the Core Group and those undertaking the independent investigation will now be better advised, as in Lord Carlile’s Recommendation #30. However, in response to this latest announcement, the Daily Telegraph reported Lord Carlile as saying:
“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.”
The paper indicated that the new complaint is understood to be at least 70 years old and is uncorroborated.
In relation to the forthcoming General Synod, the documents issued to date which relate to safeguarding are copies of two previously published reports: GS Misc 1172 An Abuse of Faith relating to Peter Ball; and GS Misc 1173 The Independent Review relating to Bishop George Bell, i.e. the Carlile Review.