THE woman at the centre of a Church sex scandal said yesterday: “It did happen.”

She spoke out after a review found the Church had not investigated her claims properly – and her alleged abuser’s reputation had been wrongfuly damaged.

Lord Alex Carlile had reviewed the process which led to a statement of apology and a payout from the Church of England over the woman’s accusation against wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell.

Lord Carlile said the process followed by the Church was “deficient in several ways”.

He told The Argus: “The statement was wrong, it should never have been issued. It was quite wrong, and I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.

Lord Carlile, a QC, added: “I’ve prosecuted and defended a lot of cases including a lot of sex cases, and there’s absolutely no prospect that a criminal case against him would have succeeded.

“I think even if it had been brought in 1951 or 1952, I don’t think it would have succeeded.

“But in any event a complaint wasn’t made until 37 years after he died. And by that time there would have been absolutely no chance had he been living of him being convicted.”

Bell’s accuser, who The Argus has called Carol to preserve her anonymity, responded: “The fact is, it happened whether he would have been found guilty or not, whatever Lord Carlile says.”

Carol first reported the sexual abuse, which she said happened for several years from the late 1940s beginning when she was five, in 1995.

The bishop to whom she wrote told her to speak to a vicar.

Carol emailed the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office in 2012 but was told nothing could be done because Bell was dead.

In 2013 an email to the newly enthroned Archbishop Justin Welby was taken seriously.

A two-year investigation was undertaken leading to the settlement and statement of apology, which referred to Carol as “the survivor”.

Critics accused the Church of trying Bishop Bell – a critic of the bombing of civilians during the Second World War, defender of German Christians under the Nazis and one of the 20th century’s most revered churchmen – in a kangaroo court.

In November Lord Carlile was appointed to review the Church’s handling of the affair and yesterday his report was highly critical.

He concluded: “The investigation was very weak, failing to find important, credible evidential material that the announcement of my review produced with ease.”

Bishop Peter Hancock, the Church of England’s lead safeguarding bishop, said the church accepted the “main thrust” of the report’s recommendations.

But the Church has rejected Lord Carlile’s central proposal that an alleged perpetrator should never be named unless responsibility for the alleged abuse has been proved.

Bishop Hancock said the Church was committed to transparency and would generally seek to avoid confidentially clauses.

Carol told The Argus: “In all the talk about how the Church treated Bishop Bell, people seem to have forgotten how the Church treated me.”


Lord Alex Carlile QC sat down with Argus reporter Joel Adams at Church House yesterday morning following the publication of his report.

What is the most significant piece of evidence you are concerned the original process did not unearth?

The evidence of a person I’ve called Pauline who was about the same age as Carol.

She was in the bishop’s palace a great deal of the time, had a great deal of contact with the bishop.

She described him as basically being lovely at all times, aloof but a very nice person.

She says there was never any suggestion of any impropriety towards her on his part.

Next the fact that there were no other complainants. The church knew there were no other complainants but they didn’t give it much weight.

Thirdly that for part of the period, a little earlier than the complaint time, there were Kindertransport children living in the bishop’s palace, and I was able to see some photographs of some of them, they were almost all little girls.

So there wasn’t an analysis of the evidence worth naming analysis.

Surely no weight is ever given in a trial to all the children a sex offender didn’t touch?

If you take the Jimmy Savile case, there have been hundreds of people who came forward.

In the Peter Ball case a considerable number of people came forward.

Of course there are cases – occasionally, and I have to say occasionally – where only one person has been abused, but with the kind of abuse that was complained of here it’s very unusual for there to be only one person who’s been abused.

And therefore it is a legitimate part of any inquiry.

Are you troubled by the fact the other witness you spoke to, who the inquiry didn’t, Andrew Carey, can remember neither Carol nor Pauline?

I wasn’t particularly troubled by that.

When I saw Canon Carey first of all he was 95, he had a very good memory for some things but one can’t expect him to remember everything .

And although I of course asked him whether he remembered these children and I was slightly surprised that he didn’t, he also gave me a very complete description of the way of life in the bishop’s palace and there were some details he gave me, of who did what, where they tended to be, what staff the bishop had around him, which diminished the prospects of the complaint being proved.

What is your message to Carol?

My message to her, and I met her and believe she would accept this message, is that if due process has not been followed properly, then she like any other reasonable person would not expect a person to be condemned.

It was not part of my terms of reference to say whether she was telling the truth or not and I have made no such judgement.

Do you feel the entire process has been a waste of time if the Church is not happy to accept the most important conclusion that you have drawn, that it should not have named Bell?

Firstly I believe that Bishop Martin will reflect upon this report in the long term.

Secondly this report will not only be read by bishops, but will be read by people who form parts of Core Groups in the future, and I think they in part will be guided by it.

Finally I would say that I think one can overplay the importance of paragraph 33 of my report, it’s one of the recommendations there are some very detailed recommendations about the way in which these cases should processed.

You conclude in quite stark terms the statement was wrong

It was wrong, It should never have been issued. It was quite wrong, and I think if one looks at the process, the process went just horribly wrong.

Are you a religious man?

No. I’m a baptised and Confirmed member of the Church of England, but I’m not a religious person.


RESPONDING to Lord Carlile’s review, Church of England leaders apologised to Bishop Bell’s family as well as repeating their apology to Carol.

Safeguarding lead Bishop Peter Hancock said: “We recognise that Carol has suffered pain, as have surviving relatives of Bishop Bell.

“We are sorry that the Church has added to that pain through its handling of the case.”

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner said: “We apologise for failures in the work of the core group of national and diocesan officers and its inadequate attention to the rights of those who are dead.

“Irrespective of whether she is technically a complainant, survivor or victim, Carol emerges from this report as a person of dignity and integrity.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “We are utterly committed to seeking just outcomes for all. We apologise for the failures of the process.”

All three churchmen accepted many of the report’s criticisms of the process,and said improvements to its protocols were already in place, with further consideration still to come.

But all three stressed the church did not agree with Lord Carlile’s recommendation that alleged perpetrators should never be named if responsibility had not been proved.

They said the Church was committed to the principle of transparency and would generally seek to avoid confidentiality clauses.


UNTIL Carol spoke to The Argus last February, all anyone knew of the person at the centre of this case was that the Church had apologised to a person it called “the survivor” and settled a legal claim.

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner had said in October 2015 the allegation dated from the 1940s and concerned allegations of sexual offences against “an individual who was a young child at the time”.

We revealed the claimant was a woman, now in her seventies, who alleged the abuse had started when she was just five years old.

Carol told The Argus she was frequently molested by Bishop Bell in rooms in the cathedral grounds, when she visited a relative employed there.

She said Bishop Bell would take her into a private room saying he wanted to read her a story.

She said: “It was whenever he got a chance to take me off on my own. My strongest memory is seeing this figure all in black, standing on a stair, waiting.

“He used to take me off down this long corridor and there was a big room at the end, and he used to take me in there.”

She said once the door was closed he would put her on his lap and molest her.

Yesterday it was also revealed that in a police statement she said on some occasions he made her touch his genitals and had attempted to rape her.

Last year she told The Argus: “He said it was our little secret because God loved me.”

She gave the same testimony to the Church investigation.

She said: “It’s something that lives with you for the rest of your life. It never goes away.”

In 1995 Carol wrote to then Bishop of Chichester, Eric Kemp, telling her story.

Yesterday it emerged she added: “My whole life has suffered because of him... I am going to tell my story and sell it to the highest bidder to gain compensation for something that blighted my whole life.”

She never did sell her story.

Yesterday said she had written that to get Bishop Kemp’s attention.

Her attempt failed.

Kemp advised her to speak to a vicar.

In September 2012, as the Jimmy Savile story broke, she twice emailed Lambeth Palace with her story.

She was told first to ring a helpline, then that “the former bishops of Chichester are dead so there is nothing we can do to take your story forward and deal with it”.

Only when Justin Welby took office in 2013 did a later email receive proper attention, leading to the 2015 apology, and then to Lord Carlile’s review.