Further police investigation of alleged child abuse by the Rt. Rev. George Bell, a former Bishop of Chichester (1929-58), has been dropped. Sussex Police sources said the investigation was “not possible as Bishop Bell died 60 years ago.”

It is understood that the police probe involved fresh accusations. The first accusation against Bell was made in 1995, 37 years after his death. The complaint to the Rt. Rev. Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester (1974-2001), was not passed on to police, and a second complaint was made in 2013 to the office of Archbishop Justin Welby.

The Diocese of Chichester revealed in September 2015 it had made a financial settlement with the alleged victim. This drew accusations that the church had “rushed to judgment” and a concerted campaign seeking to clear Bell’s name. A review of its handling of the case by Lord Carlile claimed there were shortcomings in the church’s processes.

Archbishop Welby has stuck to his guns on his stating that Bell had a “significant cloud … over his name” after the publication of the Carlile review. “I cannot with integrity rescind my statement made after the publication of Lord Carlile’s review into how the Church handled the Bishop Bell case,” Welby said.

The Diocese of Chichester had a long history of failures in child protection practice. A submission by the national church’s Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse Chichester (March 5-23) said Chichester had fallen far short of what was to be expected, and that the church could and should have done better at the time, and that it failed to protect children and respond properly to survivors.

John Martin

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