Thank you for (blind) copying me in with your open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
As you know, I share your concern about the terms of the statement made by Archbishop Justin last December following the publication of the Carlile Review of the handling by the Church of the complaint by ‘Carol’ against the late Bishop George Bell. The Private Member’s Motion (PMM) that I tabled in February 2018 for debate by General Synod, and which is currently open for signature by e-mail, expresses regret in relation to aspects of that statement and calls upon the Archbishop to retract it. However, as I have previously said to you, it is unrealistic to expect Archbishop Justin to withdraw (or lift) his ‘significant cloud’ remark while the investigation (announced on 31 January 2018) into the ‘fresh information’ received by the National Safeguarding Team (NST) in December remains to be completed.
It is to regretted that the ‘Bell 2’ investigation has become so protracted (for reasons in respect of which I shall reserve comment, save to say that they are not acceptable and have effectively inhibited General Synod from discussing the matter, or debating the Carlile report, at the General Synod group of sessions in York in July.) Also, it is to be noted that Sussex Police (with whom the fresh information was shared by the NST – see the 31st January statement) were able to conduct a ‘proportionate investigation’, done ‘thoroughly and sensitively’ within just 7 weeks: see their public statement of 20 March 2018, in which they also stated that the Church had been informed that the matter was “now closed so far as Sussex Police are concerned.” This calls into question the motive of the NST (i) in announcing publicly that they had informed Sussex police and would be “working collaboratively with them”, and (ii) in dragging out their own investigation for a period of, now, six months since the Sussex Police statement of 20 March 2018.
That said, I understand that there is now a structured “independent investigation” in place into the fresh information and that the appointed decision-maker (Chancellor Timothy Briden) has given directions that, with goodwill, should enable an outcome to be known by the end of November. It is then, and in the light of Chancellor Briden’s report, that the request may sensibly and properly be renewed to the Archbishop to withdraw his ‘significant cloud’ remark. (You may have noticed that ++Justin indicated that he may be willing to withdraw the remark at that time: see his lengthy interview with Rachel Cooke in The Guardian/Observer on Easter Sunday, 1 April 2018 in which, in answer to the question, “Is he likely to shift his position?”, the Archbishop replied, “Not for the moment. Following Lord Carlile’s report on what was a badly handled inquiry, we had further information which is being investigated, and that will take a long time.”)
One matter on which Graham Tilby and the NST are properly to be criticised at the present time is their failure to be properly open and transparent about the terms of the ‘Bell 2’ investigation. At General Synod in February 2018, in answer to a supplementary question from Martin Sewell to the Bishop of Bath & Wells (the lead bishop on safeguarding), “After Carlile, shall we see better transparency of process from start to finish in respect of the new Bell allegations than we did with the first?”, Bishop Peter’s unequivocal answer was, “The answer is yes”. [See Report of Proceedings, February 2018, Vol 49, No.1, page 73]. At York, in his written answer to my question 58, Bishop Peter’s answer was: “Mr Galloway is performing a role analogous to an investigating officer, were this a secular criminal investigation. He will provide a report on the results of his investigation. Consistent with Lord Carlile’s recommendations, the Core Group will not decide whether allegations are made out, i.e. whether they are assessed to have occurred on the balance of probabilities. The Bishop of Chichester has asked Tim Briden to come to an independent judgment.”. In answer to a supplementary question from me as to whether terms of reference had been set, both in relation to Mr Galloway and to Tim Briden and, if so, when and by whom, the bishop replied: “I would reassure you that the terms of reference that have gone to Tim Briden are being considered by him, and it is both right and courteous that he should have time to consider those terms of reference before they are made public. I am confident, I trust, in saying that when they have been finalised that we will be able to make them public.” [Report of Proceedings, July 2018, Vol 49, No. 2, page 69]. In his subsequent written answer to my supplementary question (circulated to General Synod members by e-mail on 24 July 2018), Bishop Peter stated, “Terms of reference have been agreed with Ray Galloway [investigator] and Tim Briden [decision-taker].”
Despite Bishop Peter’s assurances, I have received no satisfactory response from Graham Tilby to my request for the terms of reference of Mr Galloway and Chancellor Briden. As yet, they have not been made public. Bishop Peter’s assurance to Martin Sewell at General Synod in February is being ignored by the NST and calls into question the effectiveness of his role. I shall be pursuing this with Mr Tilby, his line manager, William Nye, and the newly-appointed independent chairman of the National Safeguarding Panel, Meg Munn.
GS 399 -St Eds & Ips.