Archbishop Welby is no doubt trying to be kind to Carol and pastorally sensitive to her testimony, but nevertheless an evaluation of the strength of her evidence is a different matter.
The Bishop of Chichester took the same line, apologising for the failures of his Diocese’s procedures, but declaring that Bell cannot be pronounced not guilty of Carol’s allegation. “Bishop Bell cannot be proven guilty, nor can it be safely claimed that the original complainant has been discredited. There is an uncertainty which cannot be resolved.”
This last sentence seems quite misleading: in judging the guilt or innocence of someone there is a presumption of innocence and a need to find proof of guilt. The fact that ‘certainty’ is not possible in such matters is a truism and not one which justice requires in finding someone not guilty. Bell surely needs to be declared found not guilty and not simply ‘under a cloud’.
The Church has not done justice to George Bell and no doubt the campaigners on his behalf will not cease in their labours to secure a full acquittal from this very serious accusation. Archbishop Welby added to his apology about the process: he said: “Bishop George Bell is one of the most important figures in the history of the Church of England in the 20th Century, and his legacy is undoubted and must be upheld.” But if this smear is left hanging, his legacy is indeed deeply damaged.
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