In January, the Church of England announced a new child abuse accusation against the late Bishop George Bell. They handed it to the police. This weekend, the police said that the case is now closed. Their spokesman added, ‘Of course further police investigation or action is not possible as Bishop Bell died 60 years ago.’ Indeed so. The date of his death was known to the police when they received the information. Why did they not at once tell the church authorities to go away, on the grounds that it is not their job to investigate crimes allegedly committed by people who, being dead, cannot be tried? Three months have been wasted. The police involvement allowed the church to refuse to say anything further. Now that this cloak has fallen away, we may find out if anything lies beneath. We do not yet know what the accusation is, nor what process is being used to establish its truth. Lord Carlile’s report about the first accusation revealed that the process was utterly inadequate. The church says it has learnt its lesson, though the logical conclusion is that it must exonerate Bell. If this second process is to be credible, it must not be conducted by any bishop or official who was involved in the first. Yet the authorities still will not say what is happening. Justice for Bell is delayed and denied.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator’s Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine