(Church Times) Payment and apology follow abuse complaint against Bishop Bell

Allegations of sexual abuse by a former Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd George Bell, have resulted in compensation and a formal apology from the current Bishop, Dr Martin Warner, 20 years after the complaint was first made.

A statement issued by Church House, Westminster, on Thursday of last week confirmed “a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse against the Right Reverend George Bell”. The complaint concerns the abuse of a young child in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Tracey Emmott, the solicitor for the survivor, said that her client remained “bitter” that the original complaint, made in 1995, was “not properly listened to or dealt with until my client made contact with Archbishop Justin Welby’s office in 2013”. This failure had been “very damaging, and combined with the abuse that was suffered has had a profound effect on my client’s life”.

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2 comments on “(Church Times) Payment and apology follow abuse complaint against Bishop Bell

  1. Terry Tee says:

    How can something which may have happened sixty years ago be adequately verified? I also wondered if there was an element of ambiguity in the judgement of the experts that ‘there was no reason to doubt’ the veracity of the complainant. The first complaint, I also note, was made some 50 + years after the event.

    How easy it is to trash a reputation post-mortem.

    I remember, too, that allegations were made against Cardinal Joseph Bernandin of Chicago. No doubt the complainant sincerely believed they were true. But they were dubious because they came from recall hypnotherapy which has been widely discredited as a source of accurate memory, and the young man concerned himself eventually withdrew them. More hazily, I seem to remember a complaint against an Australian archbishop who was said to have assaulted someone on a parish youth trip decades previously when he was a curate. Miraculously the paperwork had survived from that trip: the (future) archbishop had not been one of those who had gone.

    Awful and shameful things have happened. But there still needs to be realism about what can be established and what cannot.

  2. MichaelA says:

    Very good point Fr Tee. We need to be careful to ensure (a) that true complaints are pursued and justice done, and (b) that untrue complaints are sifted out and not pursued, so that justice is done. That is harder than it seems.

    Judges have commented many times on witnesses who sincerely and genuinely believe that a particular set of circumstances occurred, yet objective facts indicate that they are mistaken. The older recollections are, the easier it is for that to happen.