The Church of England has published the following Statement on the IICSA Inquiry into the institutional failures within the Anglican Church. In addition, the Archbishops of York & Canterbury have issued a joint Pastoral Letter“.
Closing statement in IICSA hearing
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) concluded its first hearing into the Anglican Church in England and Wales today (focusing on the diocese of Chichester as a case study).
Read the closing statement from Mr Nigel Giffin QC on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council.
Read the full transcript of all closing statements.
The Chairperson of the IICSA, Professor Alexis Jay, concluded by saying [Day 15, 115/ 3 to 18]
” We will now review all of the material and evidence and will begin to prepare a single report which will set out our findings on both this case study and that concerning responses to offending by Peter Ball.
We will not be in a position to draft those sections of the report that relate to Peter Ball and complete this report until after the further case study hearing which will take place, as you know, in July of this year.
Our hope is we will then be in a position to publish a single report concerning the Chichester and Peter Ball case studies this autumn. For information, a preliminary hearing for the Peter Ball case study will take place here on Wednesday, 6 June, commencing at 10.30 am and the substantive hearing will be heard between 23 and 27 July 2018 at this venue”.
What people would like from one or other of these august authorities is an explanation of how the Archbishop of Canterbury is able to certify a decree of condemnation in absentia of Bishop George Bell in respect of alleged events in Chichester 70 years ago without witnesses’ evidence or corroboration.
Where does the balance of probabilities lie?
In response to Stephen Dowling, it ought to be made clear that it is no part of the IICSA investigation into the Anglican Church or, more specifically, its case study of the Diocese of Chichester’s safeguarding record, to consider the guilt or otherwise of Bishop George Bell of the allegations made against him by ‘Carol’, or the truth or otherwise of those allegations. That was made clear by Dame Lowell Goddard when she was IICSA chairman back in March 2016 when she refused applications for Core Participant status by Professor Andrew Chandler (Bell’s biographer) and the Very Revd Dr Martyn Percy (Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford).
The Inquiry is not concerned either with the truth or otherwise of the ‘fresh allegations’ received by the Church last December, shortly after the publication of the Carlile Review: this has been made clear during the three-weeks hearing just ended. See Fiona Scolding QC’s opening statement on 5 March 2018 (Transcript, Day 1, page 105, lines 23-24) and her remarks during the evidence of Colin Perkins on 15 March 2018 (Transcript, Day 9, page 184, lines 5-11)
Assessment of the truth or otherwise of the ‘fresh information’ will be the job of the independent investigator (yet to be named) that the National Safeguarding Team (NST) said in its media statement of 31 January 2018 that the Core Group were in the process of commissioning. That ‘Bell 2’ investigation (unlike the ‘Bell 1’ flawed ‘investigation’ into the claims by Carol) will be carried out independently from the Core Group: see the recent NSSG response to the Carlile Review (though marked ‘strictly confidential, available to download from the ‘safeguarding’ pages of the C of E website) and the evidence of Colin Perkins on 16 March 2018 (IICSA Transcript, Day 10, page 31, lines 2-14).
In an e-mail to me on 5 March 2018, Graham Tilby (the C of E’s National Safeguarding Adviser) said he was “able to confirm that the investigator has relevant knowledge of criminal law and will have access to appropriate independent legal advice.” That is still less than the transparency of process ‘from start to finish’ that Bishop Peter Hancock (the lead bishop on safeguarding) promised in answer to a supplementary question at General Synod on 8 February 2018. As well as the investigator’s name, what is also still to be published by the NST is a timescale for the ‘Bell 2’ investigation to be completed: this ought to be short, given the age of Bell’s surviving relative (her 94-year-old niece, Barbara Whitley) and the desirability also of the matter being concluded before the General Synod meets next in York in early July.
In specific response to Mr Dowling’s comment about the ‘condemnation’ of Bell by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is encouraging that in his interview published in the Church Times on 16 February 2018, Justin Welby said: “We have to have a system that brings justice. It must bring justice to those who’ve been abused, to survivors, and it must also bring justice to those who are accused. We cannot have something which either overlooks safeguarding issues and abuse, in its many varied forms, or, alternatively, is unjust in its treatment of those who are accused.” And, in his evidence to IICSA on Wednesday, the Archbishop said: “at the heart of this has to be justice, and justice is a very, very difficult thing to find, as you know much better than I do, but we have to have a system that delivers justice. That is so important. And if it doesn’t, it’s not good enough.” (Transcript, Day 13, page 119 line 21 to page 120 line 1.)
On the question of where the ‘balance of probabilities’ lies, Mr Justice Teare has recently said that where an allegation is of criminal behaviour, “which is inherently unlikely, particularly cogent evidence is required before the court can properly be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that [the defendant] acted in the manner alleged.”: U K Insurance Ltd v Gentry  EWHC 37 (QB) at para 19.