On the 29th February 2016 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP, answered three written questions from Rt Hon Frank Field MP regarding the deceased former Bishop of Chichester, George Bell.
Frank Field: To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, whether the settlement the Church Commissioners made to the complainant against George Bell was made directly in relation to allegations against Bell, or on the basis that a complaint made under a subsequent Bishop, was not handled in a way which would be expected today.
Mrs Caroline Spelman: A formal claim for compensation was submitted in April 2014 and was settled in the autumn of 2015. The settlement followed a thorough pre-litigation process during which investigations took place. Following the settlement of the claim the Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd Martin Warner, issued a formal apology. The statement can be read on the Church of England’s website at the following address:
The statement from Bishop Warner went on to say that
“the response from the Diocese of Chichester in 1995, when the survivor first came forward, fell a long way short, not just of what is expected now, but of what we now appreciate you should have had a right to expect then.”
Frank Field: To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, whether any of the Estates Commissioners saw the charge sheet on which George Bell was found guilty of child abuse on the balance of probabilities.
Mrs Caroline Spelman: The language of “guilt” and “charge sheets” refers to criminal cases. The claim against Bishop Bell was a civil claim. The civil courts do not use charge sheets and as a result there has not been a charge sheet for the Estates Commissioners to see then or now.
Frank Field: To ask the right hon. Member for Meriden, representing the Church Commissioners, how many people involved in investigating allegations of child abuse made against George Bell consulted his papers and diaries in Lambeth Palace Library in the last three years.
Mrs Caroline Spelman: In 2013 and 2015 three staff members viewed various sections of the bishop’s personal papers held at Lambeth Palace Library on two separate occasions.
Note: This answer was issued on 6th May 2016 as a correction to the original answer of 29th February 2016. The original and the corrected answer can be seen together on the UK Parliament website, here.