A FORMER Archbishop of Canterbury has attacked the church for destroying the reputation of Bishop George Bell over a settled claim of child sex abuse.

Lord Carey said he was "appalled" at the way the church had treated the memory of the revered late wartime bishop and was looking for "ways of re-opening" the case of the former head of the Church of England in Sussex.

Suggesting Bell had been 'crushed' by a 'powerful organisation', Lord Carey said he had been denied the right to a fair trial and had questioned the church's approach but been told to keep things 'low-key'.

Last October the Church of England announced it had settled the claim formally lodged in April 2014 after expert reports gave them "no reason to doubt" its veracity.

The Argus subsequently revealed Bell's victim was a five-year-old girl at the the time of the abuse in the late 1940s and 1950s, who recalled him telling her "it was our little secret, because God loved me”.

The revelations provoked huge controversy as the former Chichester bishop's name was stripped from institutions, with supporters saying the claim remained unproven.

The current bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, praising the victim's courage.

Now, responding to a letter from George Bell's 92-year-old niece, Barbara Whitely, Lord Carey said the church he headed until 2002 has effectively "delivered a ‘guilty’ verdict without anything resembling a fair and open trial".

He added in the letter date March 3: "His reputation is in tatters and as you sadly point out, all references to him in the diocese he loved and served have been removed and renamed.

"[...] I am frankly appalled by the way the church authorities have treated his memory.

"When this matter became public knowledge several months ago I questioned the Church’s approach with someone at Lambeth Palace and was advised that it was in everyone’s interest to keep the matter low key.

"I have however kept a watching brief on the matter and your letter has now prompted me to seek ways of re-opening this."

Lord Carey's intervention comes after it was revealed he wrote to police in 1993 over the now disgraced Bishop Peter Ball. When the case came to court last year Ball's solicitors argued Lord Carey was assured the case was closed after Ball received a police caution at the time. But Ball was finally convicted and jailed.

In his letter to Mrs Whitley, Lord Carey added he hoped "to persuade some people in the media to take this forward".

He added: "Newspapers are sometimes prepared to step forward when powerful organisations crush individuals."