Church of England

Credible and True: the evidence against Harvey Proctor and Bishop George Bell

 

“Credible and true” is how the police described the evidence against former Tory MP Harvey Proctor. He had been taken in and questioned under the aegis of ‘Operation Midland’ – Scotland Yard’s investigation into allegations of a historic Westminster paedophile ring which serviced the needs of gay politicians throughout the 1970s and 80s, and then apparently kept their sordid assignations secret by murdering some of the boys who did the servicing. To be accused of being a serial child-murder and of the sexual abuse of children is a serious thing. You would expect the police to act on such an allegation, especially if they judged the evidence to be not only sufficiently credible to pass the file to the CPS, but true enough to secure a conviction.

But the investigation was halted, and the case against Harvey Proctor has been dropped. Having trashed the man’s name and splashed it about all over the media on the strength of one solitary, anonymous and uncorroborated allegation from decades ago, the Met told Harvey Proctor that he was no longer a suspected serial child-murderer and paedophile, and that everything was now just fine and dandy, thank you very much. The evidence that was once deemed to be both credible and true is now seemingly neither.

Harvey Proctor’s accuser was a man called ‘Nick’ (his real identity has not been disclosed). As a result of these allegations, Harvey Proctor has lost his livelihood and home. “I have been pilloried and the Metropolitan Police Service has enabled and allowed me to be wrongly depicted as a paedophile, child abuser and child murderer on the back of a liar,” he said. “Nothing the police do or say, no weasel words of regret, can remove that indelible stain. I hope they are proud of themselves for irreparably ruining my life.” Whatever he now does; however he proceeds; whichever way he turns, Harvey Proctor’s name will be forever associated with the whiff of paedophilia.

Credible and true is also how the Church of England found the evidence against Bishop George Bell, who has not been questioned because he is dead. Their investigation was “thorough” and “objective”, not least because they commissioned “experts” whose “independent reports” (ie credible) found “no reason to doubt the veracity of the claim(s)” against him (ie it was true). Bishop George Bell is also accused of historic paedophilia (in the 1940s and 50s), and this, again, is a serious thing – especially for a prince of the Church and a shepherd of the sheep. So you would expect the Church of England to act on such an allegation, especially if they judged the evidence to be not only sufficiently credible to pay the victim compensation in a civil case, but true enough to trash the man’s sainted reputation by causing his name to be expunged from buildings named in his honour.

George Bell’s accuser is a woman called ‘Carol’ (her real identity has not been disclosed), who has written about her treatment. The release of this primary testimony has not persuaded the Church of England to make public the “independent reports” they commissioned to secure their judgment. So, on the strength of one solitary, anonymous, uncorroborated allegation from decades ago, in a secret post mortem hearing at which the Bishop was afforded no defence, the Church of England deemed the evidence against George Bell to be both credible and true.

“But someone came forward who said that they had been abused by him,” explained the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. “And on the balance of probability at this distance it seemed clear to us, after very thorough investigation, that that was correct, and so we paid compensation and gave a profound and deeply-felt apology.”

“Nobody should imagine for one moment that any of us felt that George Bell could just be discarded. I mean he’s the greatest hero most of us have, and this has been an appalling shock and a terrible event to have had to deal with,” the Archbishop added. “But you have to listen to the survivors, you have to listen to those who’ve suffered and whose whole lives have often been destroyed and ruined by this.”

Except, of course, that “discarded” is precisely what George Bell has been. The evidence of his grave sin was judged to be both credible and true: “On the balance of probability at this distance it seemed clear to us,” the Archbishop of Canterbury insisted.

Issues of truth ought rightly to outweigh the bubble reputation. But truth demands justice, and justice must be seen to be done. The George Bell Group has determined that justice has not only not been seen to be done in this case; it has not been done at all:

We have concluded that on moral, pastoral and legal grounds the authorities of the Church of England clearly owe an apology, principally to the living relatives of Bishop Bell, and also to many people across the churches who have honoured his memory. We further invite all public institutions which have owned an association with the name of Bishop Bell to restore his name to the places where it was known and valued before 22 October 2015.

Might Carol be mistaken? Not at all, according to the experts who compiled their independent reports. Her recollection of events from the 1940s and 50s are engraved on her soul. Sexual abuse would be: there is scarcely a darker horror in the loss of innocence. ‘Carol’ has, however, issued an apology to former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, whose reputation she impugned by insisting that she had written to him to complain about the abuse she suffered. She said that she wrote to him 14 years ago. Except he wasn’t Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002. Wrong archbishop, you see. An honest mistake to make.

At least Harvey Proctor is alive and can write a book called Credible and True to set the record straight. Who can interrogate the credibility and truth of the Church of England’s evidence against Bishop George Bell when they refuse to disclose it?