I signed up some years ago as a Wikipedia ‘editor’, thinking that, as I knew a little about some subjects, I could help to straighten out the online encyclopaedia a bit. Heaven knows, it needs some help. Its worst failing, much like BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, is to portray subjects that are racked with unresolved controversy as if they were settled.
But I soon found out why nobody else had managed to put this right. Almost every significant article is guarded by powerful forces that appear from nowhere if you dare to make changes. Unless you have unlimited time, and a squadron of determined helpers, they will simply remove any alterations you make, and put things back the way they were.
La controverse porte sur des accusations de pédophilie sur un évêque anglican. La version actuelle semble factuelle et équilibrée. Et compatible avec celle que déclare avoir défendue l’auteur.
In September 2015 the diocese paid compensation to the woman and Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester, issued a formal apology to her the following month.
This led to a major controversy, as people who respected Bell’s legacy found the claims to be incredible, and found the Church’s apparent acceptance of them to be unjust.
Due to the controversy, in February 2016 the woman spoke publicly for the first time under the pseudonym “Carol”, in an interview with the Brighton Argus about being sexually abused from the age of five until her family moved away when she was nine.
In June 2016 the Church of England announced that it would hold an independent review of the procedure used to investigate the church’s handling of the allegations (not the truth of the allegations themselves) and in November it announced that Alex Carlile, a QC and a member of the House of Lords, would be the reviewer. Carlile submitted his report to the Church of England in mid-October and on 15 December 2017 the church published it.
Carlile found that “there was a rush to judgment: The church, feeling it should be both supportive of the complainant and transparent in its dealings, failed to engage in a process which would also give proper consideration to the rights of the bishop.” The report also found that the available evidence did not suggest there would have been “a realistic prospect of conviction” in court, the standard that prosecutors in England and Wales use in deciding whether to pursue a case.
The Church of England released a statement with the report, in which it apologized to Bell’s relatives for the way it investigated child abuse claims made against him, acknowledged the mistakes highlighted by the report, and promised to implement all except one of its recommendations. Archbishop Welby rejected calls to state that the investigation had cleared Bell’s name and said that the allegations were handled as a civil matter, not a criminal one.
In March 2018, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse began examining the handling of allegations of sexual abuse in the diocese of Chichester, including this matter, which it said would unfold over two years.