England

Bishop George Bell: Archbishop defends abuse claim payout

  • 25 March 2016
  • From the section England
Rt Rev George Bell Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Rt Rev George Bell was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 until his death in 1958

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has defended the decision to name former Bishop of Chichester George Bell as an alleged paedophile.

The Church of England settled a civil claim made by a woman who says she was abused by the late Rt Rev Bell in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Archbishop Welby said he was a "great hero" for his wartime actions but the abuse claim apology was "correct".

Bishop Bell's supporters have criticised the church's investigation.

'Appalling shock'

Bishop Bell was well known for championing the people of Germany during World War Two and made a speech in the House of Lords in February 1944 opposing Churchill's policy of saturation bombing.

Archbishop Welby told BBC Radio Kent: "He did extraordinary work during the Second World War, and in the run up to the war and in the years after the war, but someone came forward who said that they had been abused by him.

"On the balance of probability, at this distance, it seemed clear to us after very thorough investigation that that was correct and so we paid compensation and gave a profound and deeply felt apology.

"No-one should imagine for one moment that any of us felt that George Bell could just be discarded.

"He's the greatest hero that most of us have and this has been an appalling shock and a terrible event to have had to deal with but you have to listen to the survivors," Archbishop Welby added.

"You have to listen to those who have suffered and whose whole lives have often been destroyed and ruined by this."

'Investigation inadequate'

A group of lawyers, academics, politicians and senior Church figures have criticised the decision to name the bishop as an alleged paedophile.

The supporters of the late bishop, known as the George Bell Group, claim the investigation was "astonishingly inadequate" and no attempts were made to corroborate the allegation against George Bell's papers and diaries or contact any of his living relatives.

Journalist Peter Hitchens has also criticised the way the case has been handled, saying the Church should have taken more care because the bishop's "reputation is so important".

The church, which paid compensation and apologised to the woman following the settlement, said the decision "was not taken lightly or without consideration of the impact on the reputation of George Bell".

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