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Church orders independent review of paedophile bishop case

An independent review is to be carried out into the handling of the case of paedophile bishop George Bell.

The review will be commissioned by the Church of England's National Safeguarding Team, on the recommendation of the Bishop of Chichester, to see what lessons can be learnt from how the case was handled.

The case involves the settlement last year of a legal civil claim regarding sexual abuse against Bell, who was Bishop of Chichester from 1929 to 1958.

Dr Martin Warner, the current Bishop of Chichester, said: "As in any serious safeguarding situation it is always important to learn lessons from the process and this review will ensure this is done.

"I have, however, made it absolutely clear that the survivor in the case be reassured that we will do everything we can to continue to support her as we have done throughout this process.

"Like her, we recognise the gravity of this matter, given its impact on the national and international reputation of Bishop George Bell.

"I hope that the review will provide a constructive way forward for all concerned.

"Along with my colleagues in the wider Church, I am committed to ensuring that the past is handled with honesty."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Chichester said: "The Church has always recognised Bishop Bell's principled stand in the Second World War and his contribution to peace but it also has a duty to listen to survivors.

"The Diocese of Chichester continues to be in touch and offer support to the survivor known as Carol, who brought the allegations in this case."

The review will look at the processes surrounding the allegations which were first brought in 1995 to the Diocese of Chichester with the same allegations brought again, this time to Lambeth Palace, in 2013.

It will also consider the processes, including the commissioning of expert independent reports and archival and other investigations, which were used to inform the decision to settle the case.

The spokesman said: "The settlement was based on the balance of probabilities as criminal proceedings cannot be brought in a case where the alleged perpetrator is dead."

Details of the review including terms of reference and name of the independent reviewer will be announced at a later date.

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