A PORTRAIT of a wartime bishop which was taken down after revelations that he had sexually abused a five-year-old girl has been rehung by a city council.

A portrait of George Bell, who was the leader of the Church of England in Sussex, was removed from its place above the staircase in Chichester City Council's offices following a shocking formal apology issued last October by current Bishop Martin Warner to the victim, who was also given a five figure settlement.

But the portrait of the former Bishop of Chichester, who died in 1958, has now been rehung in a prominent location by the main entrance of the building in North Street, Chichester, following an impromptu meeting of the property subcommittee of the city council led by Tony Dignum, who is also Leader of the District Council.

Cllr Dignum said: “Back last October when the matter arose the clerk rightly said we do have a risk of vandalism, so for security reasons we took it down.”

He added: “We have been very mindful of the work done by Andrew Chandler [Bell’s biographer and a leading voice calling for his rehabilitation] and I felt he made a very strong case that the church had acted very hastily in condemning Bell and that natural justice had not been observed.

“You don’t have to believe that Chandler is 100 per cent right to doubt whether the Church was right to do what it has done.

“It’s not for the city council to make any judgement one way or the other about Bell but there is some doubt over whether Bell was guilty and we must avoid a rush to judgement.”

In February, The Argus carried an exclusive interview with the survivor, who explained that she was just five years old when the sexual abuse began in a property in the Cathedral grounds in the late 1940s.

She first complained in 1995 to the then-bishop of Chichester Eric Kemp but her case was not dealt with until last year.

Cllr Dignum said the impromptu meeting on April 25 was attended by himself as chairman of the finance committee, the city’s mayor, deputy mayor, and the chairs of the planning and the community affairs committees amongst others.

No minutes were taken. Cllr Duggan said the vote to rehang the portrait was “overwhelming.”

Rodney Duggua, the Town Clerk, said he had been directed to work done in defence of Bell by the George Bell Group, a group of eminent historians and academics and politicians which published a critique of the Church’s actions in March.

He said: “We were asked both by the Bell Group and I think from memory, two other individuals, to revisit the matter of rehanging the portrait. ”

He added: “Bishop Bell’s name is displayed on the board of Freedom Holders in the Assembly Room Ante-Room and he is also commemorated by the name of the street in Parklands, Bell Close.”