Chichester responds to its critics


1943:  Dr George Kennedy Allen Bell  (1883 - 1958), Bishop of Chichester, in his study at Chichester Palace.  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1943: Dr George Kennedy Allen Bell (1883 – 1958), Bishop of Chichester, in his study at Chichester Palace. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Months after its first astonishing announcement purporting to apologise for sexual abuse conducted against some unnamed ‘victim’ by the late, great Bishop George Bell, the Diocese of Chichester has at last begun to respond to many people who have criticised and lambasted it.

Last October you will remember that the Bishop of Chichester settled a claim concerning George Bell, and apologised to the ‘victim’ and appeared to suggest that Bishop Bell could indeed be held to be guilty of abusing a child. In the wake of this George Bell’s place in the liturgical calendar was threatened and Chichester places named after him were hastily re-named.

It was astonishing that undisclosed damages were paid out, not merely for the poor handling of the allegation when it was first made in the late 1990s, more than three decades after Bell’s death, but apparently for the abuse itself.

Now Gabrielle Higgins, Diocesan Secretary, has written a blog post ( She aimed to respond to criticisms of the diocese.

In particular, she tackles the idea of the presumption of innocence, which a number of critics suggest has been ignored by the diocese of Chichester. She says that such a presumption only applies to criminal law and not to civil law. Thus, in a civil law process you only need the balance of probabilities. But by constantly treating the complainant as a ‘survivor’ or ‘victim’ the diocese of Chichester is suggesting that the evidence doesn’t even need to be tested except by its bizarre quasi-judicial confidential kangaroo court.

Fundamentally, it is really hard to envisage this allegation even approaching the standards of proof needed for a civil claim, especially when the allegations are not just historic but positively ancient.

Furthermore, you would have to have some kind of judicial process to establish a civil claim against George Bell. But the Church of England seems to have put up its hands on behalf of the long-dead Bell, and said, “It’s a fair cop, guv’. How much money do you want?”

This is presumably because the Diocese has been at the centre of the storm over the Church of England’s crisis over clerical sexual abuse and is now running scared of any claim. But surely it could have been possible to admit that the allegations were poorly handled, without making any comment on their truthfulness or otherwise?

And if the Diocese is so wedded to confidentiality for the person they describe as the ‘survivor’ they might have considered confidentiality for Bell, who cannot answer for himself and has had no other allegations made against him.



Border controls


There are those like Canon Giles Fraser, the Guardian and Moral Maze pundit, who argues essentially for open borders, while there are others like the Labour MP, Frank Field who argues for tighter controls on our borders.

The argument by Fraser, which defends free movement, is based on a respectable and plucky desire to defend the outcast – a wholly admirable position. But the argument by Field, himself someone who has stood up for the poor and the outcast, is based on unassailable facts. The official projection of migration over the next five years assumes that the population will rise to 74 million. But based on current realities it is more likely to rise to 76 million. “That’s 16 more Birminghams. No one believes that anything like the equivalent increase in house building, roads or schools is on the cards. (

The fact is that you can’t have the sort of people movements we are currently seeing and that observers expect to continue well into the future. The cost of denuding parts of the developing world of some of its brightest talent and then putting extraordinary pressure on small, highly advanced centres, will set back the cause of development everywhere. A better strategy is one of increasingly lifting trade barriers and investing in developing economies.

For now, we have to police our European borders and send back large opportunistic numbers of economic migrants, especially jihadis who threaten our way of life.