Sussex

Bishop Bell statue to be installed at Canterbury

Bishop George Bell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958

A statue of the late Bishop of Chichester George Bell will be installed at Canterbury Cathedral after further allegations of abuse were ruled "unfounded".

In 2015, the Church of England (CofE) settled over claims the bishop, who died in 1958, had sexually abused a girl.

A review of "fresh information" found "no safeguarding issues".

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he "warmly welcomed" news of the statue.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said it would serve as a "permanent reminder of [Bishop Bell's] unique contribution to international peace and to the Church of England".

Bishop Bell helped to organise the rescue of Jewish children fleeing Nazi Germany.

The Church has apologised for its handling of the original abuse claim, after it was criticised by supporters of Bishop Bell who said there was a "strong case for his defence".

Image caption Archbishop of Canterbury said Bishop Bell's legacy was "undoubted and must be upheld"

Senior ecclesiastical lawyer Timothy Briden was appointed by the Church to review separate allegations that were made after 2017.

In a statement published on Thursday, the Church's National Safeguarding Team said: "There were no safeguarding issues arising out of the fresh information and Mr Briden concluded that the allegations presented to him were unfounded."

He did not investigate the allegations from the original complainant.

Reputations of the dead

The woman, known as "Carol", first made allegations in 1995 that she had been abused by Bishop Bell in the 1940s and 1950s when she was a child.

It was not investigated at the time.

In 2013, she wrote to Archbishop Welby with allegations she had been abused by Bishop Bell. The allegations were referred to the police.

In 2015, the Church paid £16,800 in an out-of-court settlement and apologised to the complainant.

However, supporters of the bishop sought a review into how the Church arrived at that decision.

In 2017, that review, by Lord Carlile QC, concluded the Church's response had been "deficient" and failed to follow a process that was "fair and equitable to both sides", adding the reputations of the dead were not without value.

The latest review, published on Thursday, looked at allegations made by a "range of people" after the publication of Lord Carlile's report.

The current Bishop of Chichester, the Right Reverend Martin Warner, said: "The judgement from Tim Briden... brings to an end a lengthy examination that has drawn on the recommendations by Lord Carlile.

'Cannot be ignored'

"The Diocese of Chichester has rightly been called to account for its safeguarding failures of the past, shocking and shaming as they were. We hope that the culture of the diocese has changed.

"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."

Archbishop Welby apologised "unreservedly" for mistakes made after the original allegation.

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.

"However, it is still the case that there is a woman who came forward with a serious allegation... and this cannot be ignored or swept under the carpet."

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