Justice for Bishop Bell

Alistair Lexden is a member of the George Bell Group, which was formed after the Church of England decided in 2015 to pay compensation to an unnamed woman who claimed to have been sexually abused by Bishop George Bell, a towering figure in the history of the Christian Church, when she was a young girl over sixty years earlier. She is the only complainant.

The Group, which comprises academics, parliamentarians, clerics, lawyers and writers, uncovered serious flaws in the procedures through which the Church investigated the charge against this famous, long-dead bishop.

Last month, the distinguished lawyer, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, published an independent report after examining those procedures in detail. He found that the Church had “failed to follow a process that was fair and equitable to both sides”. He concluded that Bishop Bell’s reputation had been “wrongly and unnecessarily damaged by the Church”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury responded to the report on behalf of the Church of England. He insisted, in defiance of the evidence, that “a significant cloud” still hung over Bishop Bell. He added: “Bishop Bell was in many ways a hero. He is also accused of great wickedness.”

On 22 January, Alistair Lexden raised the serious issues highlighted in the Carlile report during oral questions in the Lords. He stressed the need to ensure that those accused of criminal offences, whether alive or dead, were treated fairly. He received strong support.

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