New investigation into late Bishop George Bell as CofE says it has received 'fresh information'
The Church of England today said that it had received 'fresh information' concerning the late Bishop George Bell, with Christian Today understanding that a new complainant has come forward following publicity about allegations against the bishop.
The Church of England was criticised in the independent Carlile report published in December for a 'rush to judgment' in its handling of separate allegations against Bishop Bell, the former Bishop of Chichester who died in 1958, made by a woman known as 'Carol'. The report by Lord Carlile said that although the Church acted in good faith, its processes were deficient and it failed to give proper consideration to the rights of the accused.
In 2015, the Church of England issued a formal public apology and paid damages of £16,800 to 'Carol', plus legal costs.
The fresh information does not relate to Carol, Christian Today understands.
'The Church of England's National Safeguarding Team has received fresh information concerning Bishop George Bell,' said a statement from the Church of England's safeguarding team today. 'Sussex Police have been informed and we will work collaboratively with them. This new information was received following the publication of the Carlile Review, and is now being considered through the Core Group and in accordance with Lord Carlile's recommendations.
'The Core Group is now in the process of commissioning an independent investigation in respect of these latest developments. As this is a confidential matter we will not be able to say any more about this until inquiries have concluded.'
Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England's lead Safeguarding bishop said: 'There are ongoing queries and comments around the Bishop Bell case and we would all like this matter to come to a conclusion.
'However, in light of General Synod questions that need to be responded to and the reference to the case in the IICSA hearing yesterday, I would like to draw your attention to this [above] statement from the National Safeguarding Team. I would ask that we keep all those involved in our thoughts and prayers.
'Due to the confidential nature of this new information I regret I cannot disclose any further detail until the investigations have been concluded. We are currently developing an action plan in response to Lord Carlile's independent report which makes a number of considered points as to how to handle such cases in future and we have accepted the main thrust of the recommendations.'
A spokesperson for Sussex Police told Christian Today: 'On Tuesday 30 January we received information from the Church of England concerning the late Bishop George Bell. The information will be assessed in order to establish what further enquiries need to be made.'
The Church of England's handling of claims against Bishop Bell are likely to be discussed at the General Synod, which begins next week. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been criticised by historians and academics supportive of the late bishop for saying that a 'significant cloud' remained over his name.