Church of England must exonerate Bishop Bell
SIR – The letter from leading historians on the Bishop Bell case (“Archbishop criticised for ‘dangerous’ paedophile claim”, report, January 18) eloquently calls upon the Church to correct the statements it issued following the devastating critique of its processes by the Carlile report.
As a retired child protection solicitor, I would frame the degree of exoneration of Bell from a legal perspective in the following way.
Had Bishop Bell been alive today and had he daughters, they would have been removed from his care upon the allegations being made. Following the evaluations of Professor Anthony Maden, the expert psychiatrist chosen by the Church, and the review by an eminent lawyer such as Lord Carlile, those children would unquestionably have been returned to his care immediately. There would be no legal basis to do otherwise.
On what grounds, therefore, does the Church of England frame its claim to understand these things better than the courts? Lord Carlile makes it quite clear that the Church’s lawyers and its national safeguarding team did not understand the law, failed to understand the experts’ report, misrepresented that report’s conclusions and did not follow the rudiments of good practice in this specialist field.
Any opinion from the House of Bishops based upon guidance from such advisers is extraordinarily shaky. Martin Sewell
Member of General Synod Gravesend, Kent
SIR – The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be digging himself into a hole.
Replying to the supporters of Bishop Bell, he rejects the argument: “I knew him and cannot possibly believe him guilty.” Instead, he favours: “I didn’t know him and cannot possibly believe him innocent.” Jill Davies