What is missing in the George Bell case?

Liam Allan was studying criminology at Greenwich University—but after he started, a woman with whom he had had a sexual relationship accused him of repeatedly raping her and sexually assaulting her. He was on bail for two years, and in court for three days, before the case against him collapsed and was dismissed. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had failed to disclose a disk containing information about phone records, either to the defence team or to their own prosecution barrister, in order to save money in pursuing the case. When the judge ordered the disclosure, the disk turned out to hold 40,000 messages in which the woman had repeatedly pestered Liam Allan, talked of boasting to her friends about their sexual relationship, and discussed her fantasies of being raped and having violent sex.

Not surprisingly, Allan has been devastated by the process.

I can’t explain the mental torture of the past two years. I feel betrayed by the system which I had believed would do the right thing — the system I want to work in.

Even the prosecuting barrister, Jerry Hayes, has been shocked.

I would like to apologise to Liam Allan. There was a terrible failure in disclosure which was inexcusable. There could have been a very serious miscarriage of justice, which could have led to a very significant period of imprisonment and life on the sex offenders register. It appears the [police] officer in the case has not reviewed the disk, which is quite appalling.

In his interview with the BBC, Hayes attributed the failure to financial pressures, and believed that a further reduction in Government funding would make such problems worse in the future. But he fails to mention the wider issue in this case—the court of public opinion. Liam Allan’s mother highlighted this:

In the current climate, in these sorts of cases, you are guilty until you can prove you are innocent. The assumption is there is no smoke without fire.

This is the climate which has seen high profile figures including Cliff Richard, Paul Gambaccini, Leon Britton and Ted Heath accused, the last two posthumously, without the following of proper process. Cliff Richard testifies to the personal impact:

The TV circus took away from me all hope of ever being what I had been before, a confident and respected artist, and an ambassador for Great Britain. Had I not been ‘named’ worldwide I feel I would still have been able to look people in the eye and not feel afraid that they might be thinking that there is ‘no smoke without fire’.

The real and serious problem here is the low level of convictions in rape cases, and the long history of the police failing to take seriously allegations that have been made by victims. There is now a right concern to redress this—but instead of doing so by ensuring proper process it follows, in all these cases the failed process has just been tilted in another direction. Justice is not like a see-saw, where you can give more justice to one party by giving less to another—but that appears to be the way these cases have been handled.


And it appears not only to be the way that the case of George Bell has been handled—but continues to be handled despite a devastating report into the case by Lord Carlile. Bell was a widely respected Bishop of Chichester in the middle of the last century, and made a courageous moral stand against the way that the Second World War was being prosecuted.

Bell was seen as a champion of the underdog. He helped organise the kindertransport rescue of Jewish children from the Nazis, and later controversially criticised the RAF bombing of German civilians during the second world war. He described the killing of women and children as “barbarian” and a crime against humanity, asking: “How can the war cabinet fail to see that this progressive devastation of cities is threatening the roots of civilisation?” His comments – deeply unpopular in a country at war – were widely thought to have cost him the job of archbishop of Canterbury when it twice became vacant in the 1940s. But in some quarters, his outspokenness made him a hero.

But in 1996, nearly forty years after his death, he was accused by ‘Carol’ of sexually abusing her when she was a child, more than 60 years previously. The Church of England made a public apology, and awarded ‘Carol’ £16,800 in compensation. It was claimed that there had been a thorough process of investigation, but the Carlile report puts paid to that claim. Though the Carlile report did not itself look at the evidence, only the process (since its commissioning specifically excluded that), many who knew the situation had previously claimed that ‘Carol”s testimony was very easily proven to be wrong (for example, she appears to have incorrectly described the building where she claimed the abuse had taken place).

But what is even more worrying is the comments made both by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, as well as Peter Hancock, the bishop of Bath and Wells who now carries the Church’s brief in this area (and, by all accounts, has been doing a good job of a nearly impossible task). After acknowledging the serious failures of process, and accepting most of Lord Carlile’s recommendations, the official statement offered this qualification:

Lord Carlile states that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision” but respectfully, we differ from that judgement. The Church is committed to transparency. We would look at each case on its merits but generally would seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.

Justin Welby reiterated this:

Bishop George Bell is one of the great Anglican heroes of the 20th century. The decision to publish his name was taken with immense reluctance, and all involved recognised the deep tragedy involved. However we have to differ from Lord Carlile’s point that ‘where as in this case the settlement is without admission of liability, the settlement generally should be with a confidentiality provision”. The C of E is committed to transparency and therefore we would take a different approach.

In an interview on Radio 4 on Saturday morning, Lord Carlile said he was ‘perplexed’ by this response.

The implication of what he said is everybody accused should have their name made public, and that is just not acceptable.

Charles Moore, who has been one of the defenders of Bell’s legacy and reputation, went even further: he was deeply shocked.

Archbishop Welby is a brave man and I know, from conversations with him, that he is deeply anguished both by child abuse and by false accusations of child abuse. He tries harder than most princes of the Church to get alongside those who suffer.

Yet this is what he said yesterday. After acknowledging the failure of Church procedures, the Archbishop spoke of Bell’s “great achievement” as a defender of the persecuted and added: ‘We realise that a significant cloud is left over his name … He is also accused of great wickedness. Good acts do not diminish evil ones, nor do evil ones make it right to forget the good. Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.”

I’m afraid this is a shocking answer. The Archbishop must know that what people now think about the accusations depends very much on him. His own report tells him they were believed on grossly inadequate grounds. Does he cling to that belief or not? He invites us to balance the good and evil deeds of men; but there is no balance here. The good Bell did is proved. The evil is an uncorroborated accusation believed by the religious authorities because it makes their life easier. We have been here before – in the life of Jesus, and in the reason for his unjust death.


It seems that, instead of seeking justice and truth, the Church in this case is still seeking to be acquitted in the court of public opinion. There is good reason for this; it is not many months since the damning report of Dame Moira Gibb on the mishandling of the case of Peter Ball, another bishop accused of sexual abuse. The report is devastating, particular in relation to the action of a previous Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, who repeatedly refused to act on accusations made against Ball, and warnings not only from other bishops but even, at one point, by his own chaplain. But justice is not like a see-saw, where you can give more justice to one party by giving less to another. Correcting the terrible errors in the case of Peter Ball cannot be achieved by leaning on the see-saw of George Bell in the other direction.

Apart from the specific case of Bell, and the Church’s reputation in handling this, the see-saw approach has two important practical implications. The first is for clergy who are subject to complaint under the Clergy Discipline Measure. It is very difficult to know how this is being used, since the process is confidential—if, for example, I had been subject to a complaint under CDM earlier this year, I would not be at liberty to disclose this, even if the claim had been dismissed without any qualification. And I am not sure whether anyone is monitoring how this process is being used, or how often, or what the outcomes are. But I can tell you that many clergy are already aware of how vulnerable they are in a climate of ‘no smoke without fire’, and in that context the idea that the Church is committed to ‘transparency’ in the unjust handling of George Bell’s reputation is, frankly, terrifying. This only compounds the major procedural flaw already present in the CDM process—that the diocesan bishop is the one who conducts the review, thus removing the only formal line of oversight and pastoral support for clergy at the very time that they need it. (This flaw was highlighted in Synod when the process was being debated, but the concern was brushed aside.)

Secondly, the whole question of supporting those who have survived sexual abuse is due to be debated at General Synod next February. I am not at all confident that, in this continuing climate, we are going to be able to have the discussion we need to. The focus will rightly be on victims, and the devastating impact of abuse on them. In the light of that, the danger is that any consideration of justice, the careful use of language, and due process in seeking both justice and truth, will be marginalised as an attempt to protect abusers. If that is the direction the discussion takes, then the Church will leave itself open to another Carlile moment, and neither victims nor the falsely accused will be served well.

Jesus once said ‘Whoever wants to save his soul will lose it’ (Mark 8.35), and that appears to have been true as the Church has sought, by see-saw, to save its reputation in the court of public appeal.


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40 thoughts on “What is missing in the George Bell case?”

  1. “It seems that, instead of seeking justice and truth, the Church in this case is still seeking to be acquitted in the court of public opinion.”

    Yes, well said. I too found the report difficult reading.

    Do you have any comments on the report’s suggestions regarding the structure and focus of ‘Core’ teams? Perhaps that is a presumptuous question, but I can imagine that you might have had some experience of them, and if so, does anything resonate? It seems to be that, Bishop Carey aside, the principle complaint from the report is a lack of due process.

    Mat

    • Hi Mat, I am not sure I really have any expertise on the technicalities here. But it is a widespread concern amongst clergy that the CDM process has a serious flaw in the way it is currently configured.

      I noticed that Archbishop Cranmer has a guest post from Martin Sewell, who is on Synod and has previous professional experience in this, and he offers comment on the technicalities.

  2. This is a new low for the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Since Carlile’s damning report (e.g. paragraph 43: ‘when faced with a serious and apparently credible allegation, the truth of what Carol was saying was implicitly accepted without serious investigation or enquiry.‘ ), all that the Archbishop could muster was the following mealy-mouthed ‘let-the-courtroom-of-public-opinion-decide’ fence-sitting:
    ‘Whatever is thought about the accusations, the whole person and the whole life should be kept in mind.

    Despite his willingness to sacrifice a dead man’s good reputation in the Church’s commitment to transparency, paragraph 52 of Carlile’s report rings true:
    ‘ I understand the Church’s anxiety that there should be transparency, and its instinctive revulsion against anything which might be seen as a cover-up. Further, it has been emphasised to me that such
    clauses may be difficult and unattractive to enforce. Sometimes that may be so, but simply excluding the possibility on a blanket basis is not correct. Importantly, the Church should not put its own reputation before that of the dead unless it is clear that it is appropriate to do so.’

    Had the Archbishop been a member of the Sanhedrin during Jesus’ earthly life, it would be hard to imagine him holding to the Jewish evidentiary standard (Deut. 19:15) and rejecting the false accusations against the Messiah for inconsistency and lack of corroboration (Mark 14:57)

    To paraphrase Caiaphas (John 11:50), the kind of transparency that he espouses is tantamount to declaring: ‘You do not realize that it is better for you that a dead man’s reputation be destroyed than that the whole Church’s reputation perish.’

    As he told George Carey, Justin Welby should “carefully consider his position”, but, of course, he won’t!

    • Welby should indeed consider his position. As an Anglican all my life – I’m in my 70s – I am deeply troubled and can no longer accept a leader of my church like him. I am considering my options.

  3. ‘If, for example, I had been subject to a complaint under CDM earlier this year, I would not be at liberty to disclose this, even if the claim had been dismissed without any qualification.’

    An entirely hypothetical scenario, I imagine…

  4. All one can recommend in such a case (of being subject to a complaint under CDM which then is dismissed without qualification) is to ignore the confidentiality stipulation and make the dismissal public. Whatever they can do to you in that case cannot be worse than being stuck with the “smoke” of the allegations.

  5. Public opinion (on which see Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, The Spiral of Silence) holds sway over the law. Yet no-one can ever know what public opinion is, since they know only 0.000001% of those who hold an opinion. Consequently they rely on *perceptions* of public opinion. This gives the unrepresentative media incredible and undeserved power, particularly if they are unscrupulous in their spin (which has been known to happen).

    Did anyone notice that in the short period of Cameron’s workable majority, Christian Concern suddenly started getting better results in their cases? It reminded me of Desmond Morris on skirt lengths and the like. People are desperate to be in tune with the mood of the times (Zeitgeist) insubstantial and elusive though it be.

    Proof that public opinion holds sway over the law (for, after all, cases that come to law are by definition perceived to be finely balanced cases: what is to sway the balance unless it be the Zeitgeist?)-
    10.12.08 newspapers reported that Mrs Justice Dobbs refused as ‘without merit’ the Christian Legal Centre’s joint request with Comment on Reproductive Ethics for a judicial review into how 3 bodies could be licensed by the HFEA to create human-animal hybrids before the relevant vote had even taken place that would determine whether any such thing was to become legal or not!!

    Re SSM, Christian Concern who were upholders of the existing law (sic) were, unlike the revisionists (sic), banned from holding events at the Law Society and the govt-owned QEII Conference Centre.

    Aisling Hubert’s legal challenges to girl-aborting lawbreaker doctors have resulted in massive bills for the whistleblower in her poverty rather than for the lawbreakers in their wealth!! Explain, someone. Together with the extraordinary assertion that to pursue her challenge would not be ‘in the public interest’. Orwellianly, this judgement was not reached by actually asking a single member of the public, since the public interest has no connection with public in terms of populace or actual people. (Keir Starmer was instrumental in fostering this ;definition’ of ‘public interest’.) I think they are taking the mick and must be laughing behind their hands to see how much of this they can get away with.

  6. Generally – it is perfectly obvious that the kind of awful case detailed above will proliferate in a society where the marriage – sex link has been broken. Does anyone seriously expect that it won’t?

    But the beastly lawyers won’t mind a bit.

  7. “Justice is not like a see-saw, where you can give more justice to one party by giving less to another …”

    Superbly phrased, and exactly the point I’ve made elsewhere ever since this came to light: justice is indivisible, and denying it to one party denies it to all. It’s no coincidence that corrupt systems that trample over the rights of the accused also treat victims appallingly.

    The dangers of a mob-mentality that assumes guilt and works on feeling, not evidence, are at the heart of the Passion narratives for good reason. The cries to disregard due process in order to “listen and believe” currently come from progressive quarters: but, as seen by the wannabe-gulag in the Cuban sun that emerged from 9/11, all political stripes are just as vulnerable to these dark impulses. If original sin is manifest in anything, it’s manifest in this.

    Wherever it arises, we must resist; and whenever it prevails, we must work tirelessly to overturn its ill-gotten gains: or none of us is safe.

    • A cheap and ignorant shot, James – Guantanamo is hardly a ‘wannabe-gulag’. The men who ended up there were not political prisoners who had slighted Comrade Bush in jokes, nor were they subjected to beatings, murder or forced to work as slaves in the ice and snow. They were (or were believed to be) Islamic terrorists who had murdered Afghans and Americans and were part of the infamous Taliban and Al Qaeda network. They were treated well and given plenty of food, films and Korans.
      Obama, in his typically populist style that played well with the left, inveighed against it but never closed it – though he did try to move it to the USA and he had some of the inmates released, who returned to wage terrorism.
      Truth-telling rather than point-scoring serves the purpose of justice.

      • If you consider torture to be “treated well,” we’re clearly in different moral universes. Yes, conditions improved, but only when a light was shone on the prison.

        You’ve omitted the fact that, whatever they were believed to have done, the people detained were denied due process and the presumption of innocence. It’s unsurprising that the Bush administration tried to keep Gitmo’s inmates in a legal black hole, given that many were picked up on the flimsiest suspicions.

        Your reply just goes to prove my point: wherever we are on the political scale, we’re all susceptible to the desire to cast aside fundamental rights when it proves convenient; which is why those rights must be constantly defended. It’s no coincidence that the journalist Peter Hitchens condemned Gitmo as strongly as he went to bat for Bell.

        • Again you are wrong – and you haven’t withdrawn your ridiculous and inflammatory ‘wannabe-gulag’ slander. You show no understanding of how law and warfare interact – and the intractable problems of ‘asymmetric warfare’. Due process and the presumption of innocence hardly apply with prisoners of war. Of course some ‘innocent’ – or not so guilty – people got picked up in the war – but what do you expect when Afghanistan was crawling with thousands of murderous jihadis from across the globe? War is never tidy and prisons are never holiday camps. Great lengths were gone to set up trials and tribunals. Getting some of these murderers on trial in the US was enormously difficult. Fortunately you won’t be charged with guarding our security.

          • Of course the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply to POWs, Brian, since they’re not being accused of a crime. The whole point with Gitmo and other C.I.A. black sites was that their unfortunate inmates weren’t treated as POWs, but were instead labeled with the invented-category of “enemy combatant,” designed with the express purpose of stripping away their rights under the Geneva conventions.

            It’s not about making allowances for battlefield realities, which courts readily do when trying war criminals; it’s about attempting to deny legal protections and due process to people often seized without a shred of reasonable cause.

            The horror at the heart of the gulag was the total absence of the rule of law, just what the Bush administration attempted in Cuba when it tried to strip inmates of their personhood. Unconvicted prisoners were treated as things, not people, things to be subjected to torture, and their situation was only improved when the law forced its way in, over the administration’s furious objections. For that reason, I stand by the comparison 100 percent.

        • Yes, I agree with you James, both about the dangers of suspending process in the pursuit of quick justice, and the exhortation to patience. I’m not sure Christians have been as resolute in defending the presumption of innocence as they should be, and it’s only going to get worse as a certain type of ‘progressive’ mentality continues to try and swing the balance the other way….

          In response to Brian, I think the comparison between ‘Gitmo’ and the Gulag is clearly hyperbole, rather than direct slander, as James is not, I think, conflating them as equally serious, but rather pointing out that they share a common flaw.

          I don’t think that’s an unreasonable point to make and I quite agree with him.

          • ‘Gitmo’ was set up as a kind of POW camp for a new kind of war America had never faced before and didn’t know how to deal with – ‘asymmetric warfare’ with ‘illegal combatants’, i.e. organised, large -scale international terrorism acting under the aegis of the Taliban. That the US military and the CIA made some serious mistakes in handling some of these terrorists is clear, but they had entered terra incognita, using the ideas and methods of the Cold War – but now in the eyes of the world. As a result they had to pass new legislation in America and establish military commissions to regularise this new state of affairs.
            The Gulag Archipelago was not a POW camp – it existed to punish and often enough kill the enemies of Stalin.

          • I don’t disagree with the majority of that; Gitmo and Gulag are critically different operations in both method and execution. The former exploits a legal grey area of dubious morality, the result, I would argue, of desperation and/or frustration on the part of the US administration. The latter however is clearly premeditated, vicious and indefensibly ‘evil’ for a whole swathe of reasons…. I’ve read Solzhenitsyn; no one here is saying these things are equal.

            This was never the point either I or James was making….

            Let’s go back to Bell.

            For admittedly noble intentions (everyone thought they were doing the correct thing), a path to justice in accordance with English law (presumption of innocence, gathering evidence) was not followed, and the dangers it exposes are serious, not just for the church, but for society, hence Ian’s article.

            In this case it wasn’t deliberate, but here’s the risk: it might well be becoming more so.

            If this is the case and process is being increasingly disregarded in favor of a ‘mob justice’ or as a result of external pressures (however nobly) then we are indeed heading down the wide road to tyranny, the destination of which has been revealed by history.

          • “It is our fault, because we have forgotten what justice is supposed to be like, and that, if we do not guard it in our hearts, it will perish in the country.”

          • “In response to Brian, I think the comparison between ‘Gitmo’ and the Gulag is clearly hyperbole, rather than direct slander, as James is not, I think, conflating them as equally serious, but rather pointing out that they share a common flaw.”

            I’d have to work a lot harder than this to slander the Bush administration (if such a thing’s possible), but yup, I’m pointing out the common flaws highlighted above, the dehumanization of inmates and the stripping away of the rule of law. I’m of course not suggesting that Gitmo’s equivalent to the gulag system in scale, severity or political intent. Hyperbole’s as good a term as any.

            Returning to the other side of the Atlantic, I’m sure the CoE acted in good faith. The danger’s much more insidious: the people tasked with investigating had become so consumed by the “listen and believe” dogma that they appear to’ve naturally assumed Bell’s guilt. If the road to hell can paved by good intentions, I don’t see why tyranny should be any different.

  8. “It is very difficult to know how this is being used, since the process is confidential—if, for example, I had been subject to a complaint under CDM earlier this year, I would not be at liberty to disclose this, even if the claim had been dismissed without any qualification.“

    I can’t find this imposition of confidentiality in the Measure or the Code of Practice. Generally speaking the Code indicates CDM matters should be public.

  9. Ian,
    I, too, saw the connection between the cases of Liam Allan and George Bell and wrote about it in a letter to The Times on Saturday. However, it’s not been published, so I’ve added (slightly amended) it as a comment on the Thinking Anglicans website (under the item about the Carlile report) as follows:

    “There are clear parallels between the cases of Liam Allan, cleared of rape after last-minute disclosure of text messages from the complainant that discredited her evidence, and Bishop George Bell, who was effectively branded a paedophile after what Lord Carlile has found to be an inadequate investigation by the Church of England of allegations of sexual abuse made by a single complainant, first made 37 years after his death.

    Both cases highlight an institutional crucial and wrong approach, in one case by the police and the CPS, in the other by the safeguarding team of the Church, namely that the ‘victim’ must be believed. In their letter to The Times (16 December 2017) the chairwoman of the Criminal Bar Association and two of her predecessors make the point that “the theory that everyone who reports a sex offence must be a ‘victim’ may unconsciously bias the police and CPS against giving complaints the impartial in-depth scrutiny that is essential to avoid injustice that so nearly befell Mr Allan.” Lord Carlile has found that there was no such scrutiny of ‘Carol’s’ allegations: one of his conclusions is that “the clear impression left is that the process was predicated on [Bell’s] guilt of what Carol alleged” (report, para 254(vi)).

    Regrettably, this flawed approach is not new. In a case in 1991 Mr Justice Scott-Baker observed: “It is disappointing that, despite the passage of time since the [1987] Cleveland report, several witnesses had either not read the report at all or, if they had, they ignored its conclusions in many respects. Permeating the whole case is the underlying theme of ‘the child must be believed’. Of course what any child says must be listened to and taken seriously, but the professionals must be very careful not to prejudge the issue.”: Re E (A Minor)(Child Abuse: Evidence) [1991] 1 FLR 420 at p. 447H. Sir Richard Henriques, in his October 2016 report into the Met Police’s ‘Operation Midland’ (referred to by Lord Carlile), advised that “Throughout the investigative and judicial process those who make complaints should be referred to as ‘complainants’ and not as ‘victims’ by the MPS” (para 1.20) and that “The instruction to ‘believe a ‘victim’s account’ should cease. It should be the duty of an officer interviewing a complainant to investigate the facts objectively and impartially and with an open mind from the outset of the investigation” (para 1.35).

    Perhaps, at last, the message will get home, and justice be secured for those accused of abuse as well as their accusers. The Church, who our Lord requires to “act justly” (Micah 6.8), should be giving the lead.”

    One other comment: You say, “Secondly, the whole question of supporting those who have survived sexual abuse is due to be debated at General Synod next February.” However, that is not how I read the timetable for the February synod published last Thursday. There is no ‘debate’ scheduled, but only a 1½ hours ‘Presentation under SO 107 – with Q&A’ on ‘Safeguarding’ on the Saturday morning. That is patently inadequate to address the various safeguarding issues that have arisen in the last few months (Moira Gibb report, Elliott report and EIG involvement, ‘Gilo’ and the bishops’ letter to EIG, Matt Ineson’s complaint,all in addition to Carlile and George Bell. I think the Religious Communities debate (on an unspecified motion) should be abandoned, giving 2½ hours for safeguarding, and with a proper motion. If not, I can foresee people suggesting that we should vote NOT to ‘Take Note’ of the Business Committee report (a la the vote on GS 2055 last February.

  10. The secondary school we used to live a few doors down from, renamed itself a couple of years ago as a result of these unproven allegations, and I believe other institutions have done the same. Another instance of public opinion acting as judge and jury in this case.

  11. It’s good to know that Liam Allen has filed charges against the police. But is justice served by the woman who initially filed these false allegations still retaining her anonymity while her innocent victim suffers the stigma?

    If those who make false allegations retain their anonymity, then the system remains weighted in favour of the attitude of guilty-unless-proven-innocent …after all, there’s no danger in the ‘simulation’ (unlike a footballer’s deceptive attempt to win a penalty, which *does* warrant sanctions). If justice is not to be unbalanced, then the liar should face the same consequences as the victim …and the victim should have the opportunity to regain some public credibility by being permitted to waive this consequence as an act of mercy.

    Likewise in the case of George Bell, should the woman who initially filed these false allegations still retain her anonymity? Though sadly the falsely accused victim is no-longer in a position to extend mercy.

    • “Likewise in the case of George Bell, should the woman who initially filed these false allegations still retain her anonymity? Though sadly the falsely accused victim is no-longer in a position to extend mercy.”

      This is too far.

      The Carlise report has not made a judgment, in any way, about the legitimacy of these claims. We do not know if the allegations are false, or true. All we know is that the allegations alone did not provide sufficient cause to be picked up by the CPS, despite some initial investigation, and that the reaction to the allegations from the CofE was lacking and one-sided. That is not the same thing as them being untrue. Carol is not a liar because it has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that she is. Also, even if the allegations are false, as I’ll admit seems likely, it is possible that given the time-period Carol is simply, yet sincerely, mistaken.

      I think anonymity in this case is wise. It is not about hiding anything, but rather about protecting something ‘vulnerable’ from influence and pressure. Abandoning anonymity is ground we need to tread lightly with, as often the public shame of abuse is the major factor in preventing genuine victims from coming forward..

      • Hi Matt,

        Regarding anonymity, had this case related to any matter other than even the most tenuous alleged
        historic incident of sexual abuse, would we be expected to tread anywhere near as lightly as you suggest?

        Perpetuating blanket anonymity based on the presumption of vulnerability has laid waste to George Bell’s right to the legal presumption of innocence.

        • I disagree.

          I do not think granting anonymity nessecarily predetermines an outcome in favour in the party to whom it is granted. The side-lining of George Bell’s posthumous right to defence by the Core Group happened (and probably still would have happened) irrespective of Carol’s anonymity.

          When I spoke of vulnerability I did not mean it in the sense that she, carol, is a victim, but rather in the sense that her testimony, had she been identified, could be manipulated by other pressures.

          • However much the Archbishop encourages us to remember the good that George Bell did, the fact that he was named in a rape allegation means that cloud of suspicion will linger over his legacy.

            In contrast, for accusers to retain the cloke of anonymity, despite making unsubstantiated, groundless and even malicious allegations is a travesty of justice.

            While I’d agree that granting anonymity before inquiry/trial doesn’t necessarily pre-determine the outcome, Paul Stokes is clearly describing the post-inquiry/trial retention of anonymity by the accuser.

            Your rebuttal doesn’t respond to this salient issue that he is raising.

          • “the fact that he was named in a rape allegation means that cloud of suspicion will linger over his legacy.”

            Indeed, I agree with that at least. I do not think the Bishop should have been named and think that as much as possible should be done to undo the damage his reputation has suffered. We are at the stage now where the simple naming of a person in an allegation is sufficient to seriously damage their reputation, but that is a wider problem for society rather than a specific one for the CofE, and one I would not even begin to know how to solve.

            “Paul Stokes is clearly describing the post-inquiry/trial retention of anonymity by the accuser. Your rebuttal doesn’t respond to this salient issue that he is raising. -DS

            “But is justice served by the woman who initially filed these false allegations still retaining her anonymity while her innocent victim suffers the stigma?” -PS

            Well no, it is not, but I do not think Justice would be served by ‘exposing’ carol either. That is the crucial difference I was trying to highlight. Just because Bishop Bell has rightly been vindicated, it does not mean that carol must, by necessity, be condemned for the outcome to be ‘just’, especially because at this distance from the alleged events none of this can be proved.

            What would we gain from denying Carol anonymity?

          • ‘What would we gain from denying Carol anonymity?

            I think that Paul Stokes was probing the principle of blanket anonymity vs. specific instances in which it may or may not be warranted.

            I believe that Carlile made an important point when he wrote in the report: ‘‘ I understand the Church’s anxiety that there should be transparency, and its instinctive revulsion against anything which might be seen as a cover-up. Further, it has been emphasised to me that such clauses may be difficult and unattractive to enforce. Sometimes that may be so, but simply excluding the possibility on a blanket basis is not correct. Importantly, the Church should not put its own reputation before that of the dead unless it is clear that it is appropriate to do so.’

            Rhetorically suggesting that we’d gain little from Carol’s identity being revealed does not make the case for blanket refusal to lift the veil of anonymity, especially in those cases where allegations are made either carelessly or maliciously.

            What can be gained is a significant counter to the general confirmation bias that now pervades society, which routinely treats the accuser as victim and accused as perpetrator, and such that, as Libby Purves put it: ‘the new wisdom says that we women are perpetual victims: abused, coerced or freezing in dumb terror.’

            https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/false-rape-accusers-should-be-punished-gk93b2jk5

          • “Rhetorically suggesting that we’d gain little from Carol’s identity being revealed does not make the case for blanket refusal to lift the veil of anonymity, especially in those cases where allegations are made either carelessly or maliciously.”

            No, of course. But were these allegations careless or malicious? I would characterise some of Carol’s letters and contacts that we see in the report as ‘angry’, or at times ‘insulted/defensive’, but I don’t think (and this is a very subjective judgement) that she was pursuing this for personal gain, to simply make a point, or for some form of revenge. Whatever the root of her reasons, according to the psych report(s) Carol seems sound of mind and unlikely to be simply lying or trying to deceive. She is at least sincere in what she alleges. This is not the same thing as her allegations being true of course, but surely you can see how (given that this cannot now be proved to the criminal standard) an argument could made in favor of her retaining anonymity.

            In any case I wasn’t trying to make a solid rebuttal to Paul as I’m trying to work through the answer myself, but his comment struck me as blurring the lines between an opinion (that carol is a liar/malicious) and the judgement of Carlise (which says next to nothing on this matter).

            I would also have questions about how significant/effective that counter would be in reality, and I am not convinced that this would have a positive effect on the ‘victim’ epidemic.

            That said I am in agreement with you on at least three things.

            1. That anonymity clauses which de-facto grant anonymity before even any initial investigation are a travesty of justice, and indeed can even encourage the bringing of unprovable and/or malicious allegations.
            2. That where anonymity is granted, it should be granted to all sides until such a point as say, charges are brought.
            3. That the perpetual victimhood of women is a serious problem

          • So, we have broad agreement on those three points.

            Nevertheless, I would reiterate that, by mentioning the cases of both Liam Allen and George Bell, Paul appeared to be probing the principle of blanket anonymity, rather than just implying that Carol should forfeit her right to the same.

          • Ok, perhaps you are right and I have misunderstood Paul…

            This has been an illuminating back – and – forth at least, so I’ll say thanks and Merry Christmas. Bless you David.

          • Also wishing a merry Christmas to you and yours, Matt!

            We’ll no doubt catch up in person at the end of January.

            Cheers,
            Dave

    • “Carol’s” anonymity must absolutely be protected, because she was promised from the start of proceedings.

      I do, however, disagree with gag orders in general. Yes, they undoubtedly make some complainants feel able to bring charges, but that isn’t sufficient reason to overturn the fundamental safeguard of open justice.

      The stigma around these horrific crimes must be overcome, but gag orders inadvertently perpetuate it.

  12. “But justice is not like a see-saw, where you can give more justice to one party by giving less to another. Correcting the terrible errors in the case of Peter Ball cannot be achieved by leaning on the see-saw of George Bell in the other direction.”
    Here Ian captures very well the emotional roller coaster that now perpetuates the Church as an institutional abuser rather than vindicates it for its “transparency”.
    I also find what Gavin Ashenden writes painfully true.
    Unsubstantiated allegations cannot be allowed to destroy people’s lives or reputations.
    Lord Carlisle sees this.
    The problem is that the opportunity has passed.
    The delayed and seemingly deeply reluctant publication of this damning report could and should have seen the Church stop its spiralling descent into disaster. One can only imagine the meetings and advice given, but the outcome, in my view was the worst possible.
    Had they taken on board fully what Carlisle writes they might have seen a different future.
    But, in the light of the punishment handed down to Carey … resignations are called for.

  13. I am aware of one very serious recent case of the ‘procedural flaw’ by which the bishop’s role in passing judgement automatically severed any pastoral support for the accused clergyman. Further the clergyman in question was also on the wrong end of the see-saw and received very serious punishment for an incident twenty years ago; one suspects from the authorities weak concern to be ‘seen to be’ tough, and thereby acting unjustly.

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