The Church of England’s shameful betrayal of bishop George Bell

This fair, just, brave man deserves the simple justice of the presumption of innocence.

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

7 November 2015

9:00 AM

The Church of England has produced a lot of good men and women, but very few great ones. It is in its modest, cautious nature that it should be so. Greatness requires a lonely, single-minded strength that does not sit easily with Anglicanism’s gentle compromise.

And I suspect the Church has always been hesitant and embarrassed about the one undeniably great figure it produced in the 20th century. To this day, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester from 1929 to 1958, is an uncomfortable, disturbing person, like a grim obelisk set in a bleak landscape. Many British people still disapprove of his lonely public denunciation of Winston Churchill’s deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes. Some still defend the bombing and seek to reconcile it with Christian teaching, which is hard. Others simply refuse to believe, against all evidence, that this is what we did. It is often said, though it cannot be proved, that George Bell would have become Archbishop of Canterbury — a post for which he was well qualified — had he kept his mouth shut.

And perhaps this is why he found so few defenders when, 57 years after his death, Bishop Bell was numbered among the transgressors by his old church, and said to have been a paedophilic abuser.

The church itself issued a public statement which correctly referred to the anonymous accusations against the late Bishop Bell as ‘allegations’, but in all other respects treated the claim as if it were a proven fact. Money had been paid in compensation. The current Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, was said to have written to ‘the survivor’, apologising. He explained, ‘I am committed to ensuring that the past is handled with honesty and transparency.’ There were ‘expert independent reports’ (which have not been published). None ‘found any reason to doubt the veracity of the claim’.

The Sussex police, meanwhile, ‘confirmed’ that the information obtained from their inquiries would have led to Bishop Bell’s arrest, had he not been dead. Who can doubt this, given modern police forces’ strong interest in investigating such allegations against prominent people? But it merely draws attention to the long delay between the alleged offence and accusation. Had the bishop survived until the first allegation was made in 1995, he would have been 112 years old. As it turned out, he had been dead for 37 years, which is perhaps why the church did little at the time, and the police were not called to arrest and interrogate the bishop’s bones. The charges go even further back, and refer to alleged events in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The church’s document on the affair was available online and quickly found its way to the desks of several newspaper correspondents. Unqualified headlines resulted, and stories which proclaimed without reservation that the late bishop ‘was’ a paedophile, and ‘committed’ sexual abuse. ‘Eminent bishop was paedophile, admits church,’ said one. ‘Church’s “deep sorrow” over abuse by bishop,’ said another. ‘C of E admits “saintly” bishop abused child,’ said a third. There were plenty of inverted commas on display but none were placed around the accusation. No doubt this did not distress the Church of England, which has suffered several undoubted (and poorly handled) cases of proven abuse and which is anxious to show that it is now sound and rigorous on this subject.

All this is completely understandable. And yet it fills me with a powerless sense of outrage and injustice. It is perfectly possible that the allegations are true. But this is not some Jimmy Savile affair in which a great cloud of witnesses testify against a person, recently dead, whose life and works do not do very much to undermine the charges against him.

George Bell, among much else to his credit, was one of the first in Britain to see the National Socialist menace. He was the dauntless ally and reliable friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He opened his beautiful palace to exiles and handed it over to evacuees during the war. Against the tide of opinion, he pleaded the cause of anti-Nazi refugees in this country who were foolishly rounded up during the invasion panic of 1940.

Such a person may conceivably have been a secret abuser of children. But didn’t this fair, just, brave man (these things are proven) deserve the simple justice of the presumption of innocence, and those protections so majestically summed up in the sixth amendment to the US constitution — to be given speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with witnesses against him, to have compulsory process to obtain witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel in his defence?

Well, he cannot have any of these things because he is dead. And he left no descendants to defend his honour. In which case it is surely up to us, not least to those in the church (whose main duty is to uphold the good even if they are reviled for it) to try to provide some sort of justice.

By all means comfort and assuage the accuser, and compensate him or her (we are not even allowed to know the sex of the person involved). But in the absence of a timely, fair trial, did it serve the purposes of justice and goodness to make the matter public? To a secular mind, there is no difficulty in sacrificing the reputation of a dead man for what you think is a good cause. To those who believe in the immortal soul, or say they do, it is surely not quite so simple. As for those journals of record who presented allegations as proven fact, would they have dared treat any living person of such reputation in this way? Surely one of the things my trade most needs to prove is that it can and will act fairly without a judge or a regulator breathing down its neck.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • alfredo

    Last week I sent the following letter to the Church Times. The fact that it wasn’t published may or may not tell us something about the prsent state of the CoE.

    We are told
    that it will be left, for the time being, to the discretion of parishes as to
    whether they will continue to commemorate Bishop George Bell as being among the
    company of God’s saints on 3 October each year.

    On what basis
    they will take such a decision is unclear.

    We have not
    been informed of the exact nature of the abuse he is alleged to have committed
    against the single complainant, nor of the identity of the complainant, the age
    at which this abuse is said to have taken place, or even of his/her gender. And
    this at a time when there is an increasing demand on the part of the public
    that in cases of sexual abuse the accuser should not be able to ‘choose’ to remain
    anonymous if the name of the accused is broadcast to the world – in the case of
    the living, and a fortiori in the case of the dead, who are unable to
    offer any defence.

    A cynic might
    observe, particularly when noting the increased involvement of lawyers in such
    cases, that providing no details whatsoever prevents any public scrutiny or the
    arousal of any sense of the ridiculous, which has proved something of an
    obstacle in recent cases. Their immunity from scrutiny is greatly reinforced by
    the doctrine that a refusal to accept unquestioningly the complainant’s version
    of events is a sin almost as bad as that of the perpetrator.

    We must
    conclude that we are expected to presume Bell’s guilt on the say-so alone of
    his accuser and the verdict of the church authorities and the media, who have
    pronounced it in the most unequivocal terms.

    The verdict
    of the church authorities is, however, not unequivocal. It has been reached, we
    are told, on the ‘balance of probabilities’. The crime of which Bell is accused
    is a criminal offence. In the criminal law, no one can be convicted on the
    balance of probabilities, but on a finding of guilt beyond all reasonable

    Clearly, in
    the case of someone who has been dead 60 years, there could be no finding of
    guilt beyond the reasonable doubt of any sane or unbiased person on the
    uncorroborated testimony of a single individual who has an interest of various
    kinds in such an outcome.

    We are
    assured that the church authorities have been guided by the views of various
    experts – experts of the kind, one presumes, who some years ago caused untold
    harm by accepting the veracity of allegations about satanic child abuse,
    subsequently proved to be entirely without substance; experts who, just
    recently, accepted as reliable and ‘true’ allegations about Leon Brittan which
    similarly have proved to be fantasy; experts who regarded it as probable that a
    former Home Secretary violently abused a boy prior to his murder by a former
    Prime Minister (the role of Queen Victoria or Mickey Mouse in this scenario has
    yet to be revealed). That kind of expert.

    Clearly, in
    the view of any right-minded person, this is a very slender basis on which to
    traduce the memory of a figure revered by thousands and who was, in every other
    respect, clearly a great and holy man whose contribution in many areas cannot
    be eroded by unsubstantiated sins which he may have committed and repented
    of. All the saints were also sinners. The
    scriptural view is that various acts of goodness blot out a multitude of sins;
    that of the church appears to be the exact reverse.

    The church
    has decided to allot pecuniary compensation to the ‘victim’ in this case, thus
    establishing a precedent for almost anyone
    who chooses to ‘come forward’. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the
    sages of Lambeth Palace, or the Diocese of Chichester, that this is not their
    money, to remain an ‘undisclosed sum’. It is the money, at least in part, of
    the faithful, which was given in good faith for the promotion of the ends of
    the Gospel. The ends of the Gospel do not include the psychotherapy – or satisfaction
    of a desire for revenge – of aged persons who may or may not have suffered, in
    the remote past, entirely unverifiable and unquantifiable hurt, totally
    subjective, at the hands of the clergy. Nor do they include the virtue
    signalling in which the church indulges on these occasions – a practice strongly
    discouraged by the Gospel.

    To apologise
    abjectly for things for which you cannot possibly be responsible debases the
    very concept and value of an apology and calls into question the rationality of
    the apologiser.

    And the
    Orwellian attempt to rewrite history by removing the name of Bell from
    institutions which honour him is an apotropaic act of pure superstition, worthy
    of the Dark Ages.

    ‘We owe
    respect to the living’, wrote Voltaire, ‘but to the dead only truth’. It seems
    that from the present leadership of the Church of England, in this and other
    areas, they are far more likely to get a ‘narrative’, confected to satisfy
    various fashionable preoccupations and expediencies.

    • Well said!

      • Dominic Stockford

        Indeed, but its length is surely a clue as to why it wasn’t printed, as much as the content.

        • HFC

          I have always supposed that the primary role of a letters editor is to edit letters.

        • alfredo

          You’re right. I should have taken into account that the attention span of senior clerics of the CoE – and certainly that of their ‘safeguarding’ functionaries – is probably distinctly limited.

          • Dominic Stockford

            Quite so, and I believe that it is a “letters” page, not a “letter” page….


    • silvers

      Very well said.

  • Yet again we see present day morality defined by the alleged crimes of Adolf Hitler against those most saintly chosenites. I find Google a most useful tool when researching history, using terms such as ‘holohaux’

  • Many people still haven’t cottoned on yet – there’s an entire ‘abuse industry’ out there, which rewards false accusers and therapists alike. There are also people who’ve received dubious mental treatment at the hands of these therapists – accompanied by lashings of mind altering drugs – who have simply been brainwashed. There are real cases and there are fictitious cases. Those who automatically take the side of ‘victims’ should bear in mind that when liars come forward and spew out their tales they take away real resources from those who have genuinely been abused. People want to know about Satanic abuse victims, who wants to know about the poor girls in Rotherham and elsewhere? According to these virtue-signalling idiots in the public sphere these don’t count. I’ve noticed the British False Memory Society has put up a few cases recently on accusations that have turned out to be false, if you want to have a look: http://www.bfms.org.uk. Oh, and excellent article by the way!

    • Dominic Stockford

      Rotherham, Rochdale, Reading, and on and on. And yet silence, but the media are happy to go on ad nauseam about a handful of alleged perpetrators who are a public figures of one sort or another. Something smells.

  • Cumberland

    This progressive evil has gone much too far, trial experts is the norm, common law has gone.

  • Giambologna

    In a similar sort of way Charles Moore is trying to defend Keith Joseph against claims of racism from Sir Geoff Palmer. So denigrating have these claims become, and yet at the same time people are happy to throw them around, and would rather court public opinion than test them in court, or at least moderate their language to accept suitable levels of doubt. It is great that Hitchens and Moore stand up for these deceased figures, but there aren’t many others who would do so. Who stands up for the average Joe?

  • bre616uk

    A “great cloud of witnesses against Jimmy Savile”. According to the detailed and forensic research on the Anna Raccoon & Moor Larkin blogs these “witnesses” who “testify” are either voicing proven fabrications or are non existent persons. Savile was certainly no saint but there is no hard evidence that he was a “paedophile”, contrary to the agenda that the media and children’s charities are peddling .

    • beaumontman

      I’ve looked at the blogs you cite – neither of them seem to me to remotely “forensic” – on the contrary they both seem to have precisely the confirmation bias they attribute to others. Neither of these bloggers comes remotely close to debunking the allegations against Savile, from a wide variety of sources.

      • Dominic Stockford

        I would agree that the evidence has been so colossal, including from members of his own wider family and nurses in hospitals, both of whom have nothing to gain and everything to lose from what they have said, that we would not be entirely wrong to lean towards thinking of him as guilty.

        • bre616uk

          Your argument appears to be guilt by volume of accusations. In fact most of Savile’s family have stood by him. Unbelievable as it may seem not a single accusation against Savile has been investigated to an objective standard. The NHS and Yewtree reports are both recitations of accusations, nothing more. A well known legal firm is assisting the accusers with their claims for compensation.

          • Dominic Stockford

            No. I am clear, there is direct evidence given from individuals who have stated their knowledge of what happened on a number of occasions. At least one member of his family, and one nurse, who have publicly stated events. And one of those is making no claim for compensation because the evidence is not personal and they cannot – so there can be no counter-accusation or smearing about ‘ambulance chasing’. You might well also say he ‘cannot defend himself’ but at least they have presented evidence, and it has been in the public arena. No-one, interestingly, has denied what they have stated about the specifics they have presented.

            Added to the plethora of other allegations, as I in fact said, it would seem that “we would not be entirely wrong to lean towards thinking of him as guilty.”

            Which is hardly the condemnation you appear to think I have made.

          • bre616uk

            There have been innumerable allegations against Savile but not a single one has been investigated to an objective standard. You are merely relaying allegations which have not been investigated. The allegation made by a member of his family was comprehensively debunked by other members of his family. During his lifetime, and even after his death until the Exposure programme, none of these allegations were ever voiced. It is the easiest thing in the world to make an allegation against a dead person, particularly in the current climate “where victims must be believed” and when lawyers assist in obtaining compensation. I conclude that you have not investigated this matter in any great depth.

          • Dominic Stockford

            And I conclude that you have not accurately read what I have written, but would rather use it as an opportunity to present your perspective.

          • beaumontman

            I’ve looked at Moor Larkin’s recent self-described “summary” of his “evidence” in defence of Savile. Like you, he or she makes many assertions and character assassinates quite a few people into the bargain, but produces almost no facts to back up any of this bombastic rhetoric. Indeed one of the few categorical statements of fact he or she makes – that Savile didn’t work in local radio during 1978 – turns out to be false. A summary of this blogger’s summary amounts to this: “Savile couldn’t have done so many things cos he would have gotten caught.” I think I spot a contradiction here. According to Moor L and Anna R, the police would have charged Savile had he been guilty, because you can trust the police to look at the evidence impartially and act accordingly. They wouldn’t cover up crimes by famous, popular and very well-connected celebs. But funnily enough, the same police that you could trust to apprehend Savile are now engaged in a truly massive coordinated conspiracy to blacken Savile and many others for crimes they never committed. So, just to be clear: are you and Moor L and Anna R massive conspiracy theorists who believe that the allegations against Savile are a huge all-encompassing establishment plot involving, amongst others, corrupt lying police, or do you believe that because the police never charged Savile that proves he wasn’t guilty? Which is it?

          • @beaumontman:disqus
            Hard to know what you have or have not looked at, or have comprehended. However, I notice mention of Wilf De’Ath has been made. There is categoric evidence to prove that his story about himself, Savile and a girl in a hotel, in London was fictitious. The Post is called “Staring De’Ath in the Face” as I think bre616uk has suggested. Attached is the BBC docket where De’Ath himself reveals that their encounter took place in Manchester, not even in London. I’ve attached it for convenience and the enlightenment of others.

          • beaumontman

            The document above, if genuine, provides categorical evidence the bre1616uk’s statement that Wilfred De’ath was not a colleague of Jimmy Savile, was false.

          • bre616uk

            All the evidence suggests that this was their only meeting, hence the Exposure claims must be fabrications. They worked in different parts of the BBC in 1965, De’ath on his Teen Scene radio show, Savile as a presenter on Top Of The Pops. Savile did have a radio show at the time but it was on Radio Luxembourg, not the BBC which during this period only had the useless Light Programme, which had only one decent show – Alan Freeman’s Pick Of The Pops. A single meeting between De’ath & Savile is not my definition of colleagues.

          • And what that has to do with my point that De’Ath’s story is not true, I have no idea, but no doubt distracts you from applying your mind to the actual pertinent evidence.

          • Sanctimony

            Did you spend much time at Old Windsor ?

          • beaumontman

            I have no idea what you mean.

          • beaumontman

            Sorry, I get you now – no, connection with Berkshire.

          • beaumontman

            Sorry, didn’t get your drift – no, no connection with Berkshire.

          • @Dominic Stockford
            There were two members of Savile’s extended family who have been telling or selling stories. One is a great nephew (I think that is the bloodline) and he seems to regularly work with the Mirror/Exaro about claims of paedo-parties but nothing concrete has ever emerged, but presumably they pay him for his trouble.

            The other ias a great-neice and she made the biggest splash, claiming to have been abused on Savile’s knee in front of her own Granny. In fact, she was reported to the police by HER own daughter, who knew she was lying, and it was later put together by the rest of the family that this great-neice had never actually met Savile until she 40. It was a complete lie. There was talk of a prosecution but the CPS deemed it “not in the public interest”.

            Those are the facts. Jimmy referred to himself as not so much coming from the working classes as the criminal classes, but he was notoriously self-effacing except about his work – whether it be inventing Disco or building hospitals.

          • beaumontman

            “Nothing concrete has emerged”.
            What exactly do you mean by “concrete”? Confessions? Video footage? As I say, you folk want to have it both ways. If the police say they believe allegations of sexual crimes by public figures are true, it’s proof they [the police] are part of a conspiracy to blacken the names of public figures. If they don’t pursue allegations, it’s proof that all the accusers are liars. Heads we win, tails you lose.
            “presumably” they pay him for his trouble”.
            And of course the idea that anyone might be paid to rubbish allegations of paedophilia among the establishment and celebs, or might have other motives – including concern for the family name – for doing so, is outrageous conspiracy theory.

          • Nothing concrete insofar as no “ring” has been confirmed, or any other cogent evidence discovered about anyone. I’m not entirely sure the police have involved themselves with this tales after initial attention (presumably)The nephew as I understand it has been able to make his claims appear cogent because he was a run-a-away to London (as young people from the North legendarily did in the old days). He seems to have spied an opportunity to drag his famous relative into a story, and yes he would be paid I have no doubt. This is “the media” you know, they don’t anything for free.

            It is a moot point that Savile explicity did not bequeath his £3M personal fortune to relatives but had nominated it to various charities in the main. Easy to see why they should think they owed him nothing, and as I mentioned in the case of the female relative they barely knew him anyway, so had no real sense of family at all anyway. They didn’t even have the same name. “Savile” just becomes a commodity they can use.

          • beaumontman

            In the Moor Larkin blog post “Staring De’ath In the Face”, the blogger states that Mr De’ath said on the famous ITV “Exposure” programme that he met Savile with a young girl in a Chinese restaurant in London, and then “visited him again” the next day at London hotel. The blog post goes on to say that you can watch the programme a hundred times but you’ll still draw the same conclusion – i.e, that it’s a tissue of lies. Actually you only have to watch it once to see that the Moor Larking version of what De’ath said on it is itself pure fantasy. He actually said he RANG – not visited – Savile the next day at the hotel. This is utterly bonkers! A blog that touts itself as having the REAL inside track on the Savile story doesn’t even know what the most famous programme about the scandal actually said. I only watched the “Exposure” programme once before, but even I knew this claim about what De’ath said on it was bunkum. Even so, just to be absolutely sure I watched it again on Daily Motion last night. Sure enough my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me.
            Due to lack of time I’ve only read two Moor Larkin blog posts in full (I’ve skimmed plenty more). Both of those I’ve read contain glaring errors asserted categorically as statements of fact. Admittedly in one of these (relating to Savile’s local radio broadcasting) the blogger acknowledges – in a later addendum – that the statement is false. In the other – the De’ath “Exposure” blog – it remains uncorrected. It’s quite remarkable that someone who touts himself or herself as an expert on the Savile story should get such basic stuff wrong – especially as this person enjoys calling just about everyone who accuses Savile of anything, an hysterical liar with a nefarious agenda.
            By the way the same “Staring De’ath” post makes great play of the fact that Savile didn’t drink and didn’t enjoy lavish hospitality – the clear implication being that he was an oddball clean-living bachelor ascetic, with little or no interest in pleasure seeking. Well he may or may not have been teetotal, but this portrayal of him as an abstemious character doesn’t sit very well with the Savile of the Louis Theroux progamme in 2000 – where he was shown packing condoms for a trip on a liner. He was 74 at the time. Now, granted there’s no law against septuagenarians packing condoms in their suitcase, but I’m guessing it’s not that usual, and as I say it completely refutes the notion that Savile was some kind of asexual ascetic.

          • Ah yes, I can see what you are contending. I have conflated the original story a little. I was of course extrapolating further after this original Post about De’Ath:
            jimcannotfixthis.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/exposition-pt2.html (needs http added)

            “I turned up at the Lotus House, I think it was a Friday evening, and
            there he was sitting on a banquette with this…. very young girl, I
            would say she was – if you ask me to guess – it could be that she was 13
            or 14, but I would have said 12. I asked him where he picked her up and
            he said “Top of the Pops”. I said, “Is that your happy hunting ground?”
            and he said Yes; and that was the extent of my conversation about the
            girl….. we made an arrangement that I would ring him next morning at
            the Ascot Hotel….. I phoned him and he was actually in bed with this
            girl. In fact, he said he was in bed with her!”

            I have no argument with you picking me apart. I have deeper misgivings about why you feel the need. I hadn’t proposed any massive reading and literary criticism project for you. I attached a copy of the BBC docket that proves that De’Ath was meeting Savile in Manchester, not London. All the rest is clearly bollocks after that, but whatever floats your boat.

            I do take exception to your putting words in my mouth about any asceticism claims. Savile was generally teetotal. That is a matter of fact but he was by no means ascetic; he liked a good shag and had as many as he could by his own accounts. That you associate teetotalism and asceticism perhaps serves to illustrate your own puritanical mentality. Jimmy said he didn’t do booze for the simple reason he didn’t like the taste. He did take alcohol later in his life n advice from a doctor apparently. I would guess for it’s mild sedative effects.

            So, if you can shed any light on why De’Ath should be believed when he relates a story about himself visiting Savile in London, when in fact Savile visited HIM in Manchester, I’m here for you.

      • bre616uk

        I have spent quite some time on these blogs and I am immensely impressed by the the detailed and, yes, forensic way they have examined the claims made in the ITV Exposure programme about Jimmy Savile. The evidence they have provided is in my judgement compelling, namely that all the main witnesses’ claims are fabrications or distortions of the truth. Moreover, and most seriously, two of the witnesses are inventions of the programme makers (the two Top Of The Pops women wearing wigs and with voice-overs). The programme offered six witnesses for the prosecution, none for the defence and no cross-examination of the prosecution case. The mainstream media, politicians of left, right and centre, and the British public swallowed it hook, line and sinker, primarily because Savile appeared a little weird and because there were “rumours”. I can understand that you might not have the time to read these blogs in detail as I have done, but excuse me if I disregard your comments on this matter. The two bloggers conclusions are most certainly not “confirmation bias” as you ridiculously allege, but instead they are based on sound evidence and detailed research. I wonder if you are susceptible to confirmation bias yourself.

        • beaumontman

          Nothing stopping you pointing me to the particular articles that you find especially “compelling” and “forensic” – something you have pointedly failed to do so far. I’d be particularly interested in seeing how the statements of nurses and Savile family members (referenced by another contributor, Dominic Stockford”) have been refuted by these two bloggers – not to mention the evidence of former colleagues of Savile such as Wilfred D’eath’. And by the way the evidence against Savile does not rely solely on the ITV programme you mention – it comes from a myriad of sources. You accuse Mr Stockford of using “guilt by volume of accusations”, as if this is somehow a ridiculous method of weighing evidence – when it is in fact perfectly reasonable to draw conclusions about someone’s behaviour or character on the basis of the sheer number of allegations made against him or her. If I meet one person who says my new next door neighbour is a thief I should treat the allegation with extreme caution – if twenty other people say the same thing I’m obliged to take it much more seriously. This was indeed Mr Hitchens’s original point on the difference between the Savile and Bishop Bell cases.
          The idea that the ITV programme was unbalanced because it didn’t offer defence witnesses is a bizarre inversion of logic. (A) It wasn’t a court of law, and (B) much more importantly, even if it had been, there are many such cases where there ARE no credible defence witnesses. If an old lady is mugged, and the mugging is witnessed by four strangers who testify for the prosecution, whereas no witnesses come forward to say the accused did not commit the crime, that imbalance does not in any way undermine the credibility of the prosecution case – quite the reverse.

          • bre616uk

            I have given a lot of thought to your comments. For the evidence I suggest you go to the Moor Larkin blog. A starting point would be the posts titled “Exposition Parts 1-10” dated from 23 March 2013. Then read the post “Staring De’ath in the face” dated 23 July 2013. Then go to the posts “Deceit Parts 1-6” starting from 5 October 2015. Unfortunately, none of these posts individually gives the full picture, since this is spread over a number of posts as new evidence comes to light. If you are really interested in getting to the truth of the Savile allegations you should start at the beginning of the blog and work your way through it as I have done. There are over 450 posts so it may take some time, but it is worth it as the picture of deceit and misinformation builds up. In addition, the Anna Raccoon blog provides a wealth of useful information and insightful comments. The allegation made by a member of his family was comprehensively debunked by other members of his family. Wilfred De’ath was never a “colleague” of Savile, they met just once. De’ath’s comments in Exposure are pure fabrications. Savile’s real colleagues were his secretary of 32 years Janet Cope, BBC producers Roger Ordish and Nick Vaughan Thomas, and Stoke Mandeville medical secretary Sylvia Nicol. None of these colleagues heard a whisper against Savile during the many years they worked with him. Prior to the Exposure programme neither the BBC, the NHS, NSPCC, Childline or NAPAC had received any allegations against Savile. The police received five allegations of sexual misbehaviour against Savile before his death. Two involved adult women and three related to Duncroft School. All were thoroughly investigated by the police and it was concluded by the CPS that there was insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution in any of these cases. This matter is dealt with in great detail on Moor Larkin’s blog. I agree that the ITV Exposure programme was not a court of law but the conclusion it reached has been treated by you, the British public, the mainstream media, the police, childrens’ charities and politicians as if it did have the authority of a court. In a court of law accusers and prosecution witnesses can be cross examined by the defence barrister. Nothing of the kind took place in the Exposure programme. I agree that the evidence against Savile is not confined to the Exposure programme, but all the subsequent allegations made against him were as a result of the deceits and fabrications in the Exposure programme. This makes me very suspicious of their authenticity. I would welcome a sceptical but open minded analysis of the claims made in the Moor Larkin & Anna Raccoon blogs but you have yet to provide it.

          • beaumontman

            I find in this life that if you want to gauge the credibility of a person’s argument, it’s always a good idea to see whether or not they misrepresent the person they’re arguing with. I’m afraid by that yardstick you fail miserably. I did not say or imply, as you suggest, that the Exposure programme should be treated as a court of law – I said the precise reverse of this. This is only one of several demonstrably false statements in your reply to me:
            The idea that none of Savile’s “real colleagues” ever “heard a whisper” about him is extremely far fetched. Far more than whispers were commonplace in all sections of the media and in published books many years before he died. Unless his colleagues lived in a cave in Patagonia they could not have avoided hearing such rumours.
            If Wilfred De’ath was not a colleague of Savile’s, why has no one from the BBC or elsewhere come forward to refute Mr De’ath’s claims to the contrary – and expose his “fabrication”? If you have hard evidence to support your claims about Mr De’ath, do pray produce it, instead of making completely unsupported assertions – your stock in trade.
            The idea that members of Savile’s family are in a position to “debunk” the claims against him is preposterous – unless that is they obsessively tracked his movements throughout this life. You seem to labour under the bizarre misapprehension that the testimony of folk who, by their own admission, were not present at the scene of alleged crimes, is of higher value than that of persons who were, or who at least claim to have been. Your approach reminds me of the story of the man accused of robbery, who, when the prosecution put it to him that a man saw him commit the crime, replied that he could produce a thousand men who didn’t see him do it. By the same token colleagues, family or friends’ claims not to have heard a whisper about Savile, even if true, are next to worthless in adjudicating on his guilt or innocence. The only people who know what went on with Savile are the people who were there at the scene of the alleged crimes. And more than enough of them have come forward to make the case against Savile absolutely overwhelming. Especially since, as has been said before, many of those who have accused him have clearly no financial or other motive for doing so. Indeed it would served the reputations of many witnesses better to have stayed quiet.
            As I’ve said before I’ve looked at both the blogs you mention – and they are about as far removed from forensic examinations as it’s possible to get, rambling, prejudicial, opinionated – and seemingly more concerned with an overt libertarian political crusade to debunk allegations of child abuse in general, than with finding the truth out about Savile. Perhaps you’d be so good to as to condense their findings – this time with hard facts, as opposed to unsupported assertions.
            Your cherry-picking approach to police findings is ridiculous. The police failure to prosecute Savile when he was alive is touted as proof that he had no case to answer, whereas on the other hand the statements of police and other authorities, since his death, that he was guilty of many sexual crimes are not even mentioned.

          • bre616uk

            In my previous reply I attempted to answer the points you raised in the order you made them. I will try again with your latest remarks and keep my fingers crossed that this time I succeed. Believe it or not, I have no wish to twist your views on whether or not you claimed that the Exposure programme should be treated as a court of law. I was merely making an observation that the general public, the mainstream media, the police and others have been treating the conclusions of this programme as if it was a guilty verdict in a court of law. I made the reasonable point that a court of law would have allowed defence witnesses to testify on behalf of the accused, and would also have allowed a defence barrister to cross examine the claimants to discover more about the veracity of their claims. The Exposure programme was clearly defective in that none of his close colleagues appeared on the programme to defend him against the claims, and subsequent to the programme there has been no attempt in the mainstream media to investigate the claims made by the witnesses . But this failure has not stopped just about everybody uncritically and, in my opinion, credulously accepting their claims as gospel truth. You claim that “whispers were commonplace in all sections of the media and in published books many years before he died”. Fine, please produce evidence of these claims, who made them, and the information on which they were based. You ask “why has no one from the BBC or elsewhere come forward to refute Mr De’ath’s claims”. Mr De’ath is a private citizen, no longer a BBC employee, and thus the BBC would have no business refuting or otherwise commenting on his claims. But others “elsewhere” have come forward to refute his claims. Moor Larkin in his post “Staring De’ath in the face” did so with compelling evidence. I had already referred this post to you, could you at least have the courtesy to read it. Contrary to what you say the Savile family are in a very strong position to debunk claims against him if they have evidence to do so which they have. Please read details in the Daily Mail article dated 18 October 2014 concerning the allegations made by his great-niece Caroline Robinson (link attempted here)http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2798457/. The article also rather debunks your claim that “many of those who have accused him have clearly no financial or other motive for doing so”. “Your cherry-picking approach to police findings is ridiculous” is a strange accusation. I provided you with the totality of the police investigations when Savile was alive. They can only investigate claims that are brought to their attention. The statements made by the police about claims made since his death are worthless since they have carried out no investigations into these claims. As you might expect I totally disagree with your views on the Moor Larkin and Anna Raccoon blogs. I suspect you have not read the Moor Larkin posts which I previously referred you to to since they provide a summary of the blogs’ findings which you are now asking for. In this respect you may be interested in the “Was Jimmy Savile really a beast?” post from the Mr Right Wing blog (link attempted here) http://mrrightwing.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/was-jimmy-savile-really-beast.html. It is a bit out of date as it does not include some of the latest findings, but you might find it informative.

          • beaumontman

            Contrary to your quite extraordinary statement, the BBC have every reason to refute Mr De’ath’s claims to have worked with Savile – if he didn’t. It would be inexplicable behaviour on their part not to do so. In fact it would be tantamount to being an accessory to a huge miscarriage of justice – particularly as they are in the news business themselves – and were very much in the firing line over the Savile scandal.
            I looked at the summary of Moor Larkin’s findings and was expecting to see a series of bullet points that provided an honest attempt at refutation of the version of the Savile scandal that you and Moor claim is utterly false – something that could itself be proved true or false. What I saw instead was a rambling diatribe with almost no facts. It’s also worth noting that Moor Larkin and Anna Raccoon both categorically rubbish other child abuse allegations that are still under investigation by the authorities. That indicates that, far from being forensic analysts of the evidence, they are predisposed to deny ALL such allegations against public figures. In their universe all claims of abuse made against prominent people are nothing more than hysterical witchunts. Too bad for them that Stuart Hall admitted his crimes. If he had pleaded not guilty, or had died before going to trial, I’ve no doubt they’d be claiming he was innocent too.
            I repeat: unless the Savile family were tracking his movements 24/7, their claims on his behalf are next to worthless. In fact family character references of this sort are in some respects worse than useless – no employer gives much credence to a character reference from a sister or brother.
            Incidentally, here’s something for you to chew on: I know of at least two people who claim that they were at the scene of sexual misdemeanours by Savile one in Australia – the other in his home town of Leeds. The Leeds woman said Savile assaulted her when she was a young girl. Both of these people made these claims to friends and family long before he died, and neither have ever came forward to the police or the media. So. far from Savile’s crimes being exaggerated, or even invented, there’s plenty of reason to believe they’ve been under-reported.
            I will look at the relevant De’ath post when I have time.

    • Roger Hudson

      Savile was not a paedophile, all the evidence shows he was a person with a huge inferiority complex who compensated by dominant sexual abuses, showing no particular preferences except that of preying on the vulnerable, who more vulnerable than the young, the sick and those in institutions.
      I once knew a woman who as an adult was ‘entertained’ in his dressing room, it is well know that the true paedophile is repelled by the sight of luxuriant pubic hair, not Savile.

      • Sanctimony

        That’s put me off my breakfast ………..

  • Louise

    “It is in its modest, cautious nature that it should be so. Greatness requires a lonely, single-minded strength that does not sit easily with Anglicanism’s gentle compromise.”

    St Margaret Clitherow did not find it very “gentle.”

    “To this day, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester from 1929 to 1958, is an uncomfortable, disturbing person, like a grim obelisk set in a bleak landscape. Many British people still disapprove of his lonely public denunciation of Winston Churchill’s deliberate bombing of German civilians in their homes.”

    I’m very glad to hear about this man, he certainly sounds great.

    “Some still defend the bombing and seek to reconcile it with Christian teaching, which is hard.”

    Impossible, I think, since it doesn’t agree with doctrine on just war.

    “Surely one of the things my trade most needs to prove is that it can and will act fairly without a judge or a regulator breathing down its neck.”

    Very true.

    • Lawrence James.

      The policy was not Churchill’s, it was agreed upon by the Cabinet and defended on the BBC by Attlee, the deputy-prime minister in a robust and convincing answer to Bell. Oh, and Margaret Clitheroe’s fate was not decided by the Anglican courts, but by the civil law as a consequence of her refusal to plead..

      • Louise

        Oh well that makes it ok then. (Not really).

        Obviously the law itself was bad and was the work of Anglicans. The point is not “oh look at the bad Anglicans” – the point is that there was nothing very gentle about Anglicanism. Sure, if you were prepared to go to the services of the new, false religion, you could believe any silly muck you liked, but too bad if you wanted to keep the Catholic Faith.

        But Anglicanism – perhaps especially it’s “gentle compromise” (or spinelessness in doctrine) is why England is currently doomed. Poor England. I’m quite fond of her. I do wish she would be merrie again.

      • Peter Hitchens

        Nonetheless, it was Churchill’s policy, as Richard Overy’s excellent book on the subject makes quite clear ( see http://dailym.ai/1DR4X2A ). Others no doubt defended it, though often they did so (as its defenders do now as well) by deceiving themselves or others about what it really was, namely the deliberate attacking of civilians, including women and children, in their homes, with incendiaries and high explosive. Churchill, like Arthur Harris, knew exactly what the policy was and did not hide this from himself with pretences that it was collateral damage resulting from attacks on military targets. It was not.

        • Lawrence James.

          Yes, he supported it in the cabinet and his deputy, Attlee, defended it on the BBC; given what the British people has suffered in the blitz, there were few dissenting voices. It would have made more strategic sense to have used our air power to shatter the U-Boats pens and port facilities. The vital battle of the Atantic was still in the balance and would be until the summer of 1943. As for collateral damage, that has been part of war since the siege of Troy. More recent sieges, such as that of Paris in 1870-1871, had seen the destruction of homes and the death of civilians. The same was true of the 1882 bombardment of Alexandria, when the city and not its fortifications were the main target. However painful it may for some consciences, collateral damage is a historical fact of life and will endure as long as wars are waged.Better Air Precaution measures would have save German lives, but Hitler refused to introduce them.

          • Peter Hitchens

            It was not ‘collateral damage’. It was the deliberate bombing of civilians in their homes.Please read http://dailym.ai/1DR4X2A

    • I reach for my Browning

      Margaret Clitherow was a traitor.

      • Germainecousin

        says the lad living in the fruits of those who murdered poor Margaret. There are just too many who would still back anyone including isis against the RCC.

        • I just read her story for the first time — and am touched by her nobility and heroism.

          • Enders_Shadow

            Margaret Clitherow harboured people who were committed to the
            overthrow of the English government. Therefore on any reasonable
            definition she was a traitor.to the same extent that emissaries of ISIS are traitors. Or do you think they are ‘noble’?

      • Louise

        No she was not.

      • Enders_Shadow

        Margaret Clitherow harboured people who were committed to the overthrow of the English government. Therefore on any reasonable definition she was a traitor.

        Her death occurred in 1586, two years before the Spanish Armada which the Pope deemed to be a crusade. RC priests were the direct emissaries of the Pope, therefore of an enemy of the state. To harbour such people is on a level with knowing harbouring emissaries from ISIS – or don’t you think Muslims who do that should be punished either?

  • Haffers

    T S Eliot’s testimony.

    On 30 Dec. 1958 T S Eliot recorded a contribution for the programme ‘The Way of Life’
    (broadcast on the Home Service, 18 Jan. 1959): ‘In my memories of Bishop Bell, four
    meetings stand out. The first memory is of a weekend, which must have been in 1930 or
    1931 [actually Dec. 1930, when TSE had recited Ash Wednesday to a party which was at
    once impressed and bewildered], when I was a guest at the Palace in Chichester. Mr Martin
    Browne had been appointed by the Bishop [in 1930] his Adviser on Religious Drama for
    the diocese, and Mr and Mrs Browne dined with us: out of that meeting came the invitation
    in 1933 to write the Church Pageant which became “The Rock”. I remember also that Dr
    Bell travelled up to London with me on the following Monday; not having consorted much
    with bishops in those days, I found it strange to be journeying with a bishop in a third-class
    railway carriage. On that journey, the Bishop spoke to me about Dr J. H. Oldham and his
    work for the Church and the World: and so that weekend brought about my acquaintance
    with two men, Mr Browne and Dr Oldham, with whom I was later to be closely associated
    in quite different activities. The second of those four meetings which are clearest in my
    memory was also to have important consequences for me: it was on a summer afternoon in
    1934 walking in the garden of the Palace that Bishop Bell proposed that I should write a play
    for the Canterbury Festival, the Festival which he had originated when Dean of Canterbury
    and in which he retained a warm interest. The result was “Murder in the Cathedral”. A third
    meeting was in Stockholm in 1942: the Bishop arrived on the day on which I was to leave.
    We all know now, what I did not know then, why Dr Bell had come to Sweden: it was no
    fault of his that the conversations he had there led to nothing. [While lecturing in Sweden
    for the Ministry of Information, Bell had been made privy to a German plot to assassinate
    Hitler: when he conveyed this information to the Foreign Office no credence was given to
    his report – but it turned out two years later that the names he had vouchsafed to the British
    authorities turned out to be those of officers executed by Hitler after the attempt on his
    life.] And the fourth meeting was at a conference which he had assembled in Chichester, I
    think also during the War, to discuss the place of the Arts in the life of the Church: among
    others present, I remember Mr Henry Moore, Sir Edward Maude, and Miss Dorothy Sayers.

    ‘These four meetings, chosen by my memory from among others, illustrate the varied
    interests and activities of the Bishop, outside of the regular duties of a diocesan which he
    carried out so faithfully: his interest in the service which Art could perform for the Church,
    and no less in the inspiration and employment which the Church could give the artist; his
    interest in the Oecumenical Movement, of which there is ample documentary evidence; his
    interest in foreign affairs and his sense of the international responsibility of the Church and
    of churchmen. He and another of my friends, Duncan-Jones the late Dean of Chichester,
    were men of very different type, but in two respects in which they were both outstanding,
    they had much in common. The Dean made the Cathedral the musical centre of the diocese;
    the Bishop, by his patronage and encouragement of drama and of the plastic arts, made his
    diocese an exemplar for all England. And both Bishop and Dean, during the 1930s, were
    tirelessly outspoken in their protests against the religious and racial persecution taking place
    in Germany.

    ‘My first impulse, in speaking of the impression which George Bell has left upon me, is
    to say that he was a “loveable man”. On reflection, I find that in applying this adjective, I
    am making it a compendium of all the qualities for which I loved and admired him. These
    include a dauntless integrity: no ambition could ever have deflected him from whatever
    course he felt to be right, no fear of the consequences to himself could ever have prevented
    him from speaking the truth as he saw it. With this went modesty and simplicity of manner,
    the outward signs, I believe, of inward humility. A friendly man, and a man of genuine piety
    – in short, a good man and an honest man.’

  • Dominic Stockford

    I see that our good police are subjecting Mr Richard, a popular singer, to the court of public opinion by telling all of their latest decision to have a chat with him – instead of keeping their silence until the decision to place charges is made – which I doubt will ever happen.

    The new witch hunt, and the casual way people’s lives are torn apart by such ‘historic act’ allegations is quite wrong. The order should be: Evidence, charges, trial, verdict, reporting. Not any more.

    • Charley

      Indeed, my Lord Bishop.

      • Dominic Stockford

        Retired, brother. And not in the CofE!

  • Hippograd

    Why is the appalling Peter Hitchens spewing his vile conservative opinions in a decent progressive magazine like The Spectator? Sajid Javid for PM! (He’s from Rochdale, you know.)

  • alfredo

    I note that not a single word has been said here by or for the CoE authorities in their defence against the very grave charges made against them by this article and the comments. Their behaviour has been outrageous. They have defamed a dead man and attempted to rewrite what is not only church but national history, and they then refuse to offer the slightest explanation or justification for this, other than their own judgement. Who do they think they are? They must not be allowed to get away with it. If ever one of these famous ‘enquiries’ was called for, it would be into what is going on here.

  • Matt Sheard

    The Church of England is constantly selling its clergy down the river to protect its name, even those who are still alive and are known to be innocent. The clerical victims of this are usually too good to say anything or are threatened by their bishop. It would certainly be an interesting issue for the press to investigate further.

  • Dogsnob

    It’s The Church of England. It’s what they do.

  • Terence Hale

    This rings a Bell, I was sitting in a small Café in Plympton Plymouth and overheard a conversation of a women complaining they have still not found a vicar whereby she was promptly replied to, no one in Church of England will go west of Exeter.

    • Roger Hudson

      So much for the Diocese of Truro.

  • johnhenry

    Excellent piece by the only writer by the name of Hitchens that I respect. Everything he says about the injustice of this situation strikes a deep (professional) chord in me. My only quibble is with this:

    “Greatness requires a lonely, single-minded strength that does not sit easily with Anglicanism’s gentle compromise.”

    Oh please. The C of E only got into the business of “gentle compromise” when it became apparent there was no other way of preserving its desiccated husk. In the First World nowadays, Anglican bishops need taxidermy licences more than theology degrees. No offence.

    • Peter Hitchens

      On the contrary, it was inherent in the Elizabethan settlement, the deliberate ambiguity of the Prayer Book Communion service and the desire not to make windows into men’s souls.

  • Joyce

    Were I a parishioner anywhere in the diocese of Chichester I should withold my contributions to the Church until I knew how much compensation had been paid,to whom,for what reason,and upon what evidence.
    The only real evidence can be DNA. If a man in his sixties impregnated a girl under sixteen in his charge in his capacity as a Churchman,that certainly would be abuse of power as well as the crime of unlawful carnal knowledge. If fifty years later the offspring came looking for the birth mother who asked for a DNA sample in order to confirm the identity of the man who got her into trouble all those years ago, there would be a possible explanation of the timing of the accusation.
    What other sexual abuse could have occurred that could be proven in the absence of eye witnesses or signed confession is surely beyond the imagination of the normal person in the pew.
    I don’t see why compensation should come out of what I put on the collecton plate nevertheless.

    • Enders_Shadow

      Because the church must seen to be doing something about the scandals that are emerging, and this is something. The church is far more interested in appearing respectable and responsible and therefore responsive to popular opinion, than to stand up for the truth. Objective truth went out of fashion in theological circles long ago, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if its leaders don’t want to face that debate now.

  • Sanctimony

    This clerical mud-slinging is not limited to the C of E.

    I was taught by an exceptionally good man and priest at a top Catholic Public School. Twenty years after I left school this same man was hounded by the police in the north of England over some very nebulous accusation of sexual abuse. All of my friends and fellow scholars found the charges utterly laughable and groundless and we all spent five years in the same scholastic and religious environment as this worthy man.

    After three years of hounding, the police finally dropped any investigation into this good man; but not before he had been broken in both body and spirit.

    • johnhenry

      Bloody Geordie.

      • Sanctimony

        Further west …

        • johnhenry

          Jammy for you.

    • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

      Because, of course, paedophiles abuse every kid they come into contact with

  • David Hopkins

    I fail to understand why it is that the author of this article makes reference to the US Constitution, when such guarantees of timeous justice are contained in the Magna Carta.

    • Peter Hitchens

      Because they are better and more concisely expressed in the US Bill of Rights ( separate from and post-dating the original US Constitution)

  • Slater

    Is this the beginning of the end for Foyle’s War in which the Bishop had a starring role?
    And will the innumerable, rapacious, fascist capitalists and aristocrats depicted there, week on week, have to be retired or rewritten?

  • Lawrence James.

    This piece is rather muddled. There are two unrelated issues here: that of Bell’s condemnation of the aerial offensive against Germany, which I think was mistaken, and his alleged pederasty. No documentary evidence for this has been produced by the Church of England and so, in its absence, the case is insubstantial and, therefore, unproven. The affidavits of his victims should be published in full together with whatever supporting evidence the Church has obtained. If it is not, then the Bishop has been unjustly traduced and damages had been paid for the flimsiest of reasons.

    • ChrisTavareIsMyIdol

      Do you believe the church wanted him found guilty and wanted to pay out compensation to victims?

      • Lawrence James.

        There is no way of knowing since the Church has presented us with conclusions rather than the evidence and reasoning behind them

        • Rinbad

          And since no case for the defence can have been heard as George Bell is long dead it seems unlikely that the evidence and reasoning can have been very satisfactory.

          • Lawrence James.


    • Peter Hitchens

      The issues are entirely related. If Bishop Bell could be conclusively shown to have been a grotesque, self-indulgent hypocrite, professing Christianity whilst engaging in criminal assaults on those little ones of whom Christ said :’ But whoso shall offend one
      of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a
      millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of
      the sea.’ (Matthew 18:6) , then his whole position would be retrospectively devastated, and those who cite him as a supreme example of courageous and selfless Christian witness scattered and demoralised.

      • Lawrence James.

        Not so I think: a line can be drawn between the private man and his private life and his public conduct.One can summon up serial adulterers ( Nelson, Palmerston and Lloyd George ) whose private indulgences did not in any way influence their judgement or conduct of public affairs.Bad men can do good things and reputations can survive all manner of posthumous relevations: JFK Kennedy ?

        • Peter Hitchens

          This is a poor comparison on two grounds: 1. Nelson, Palmerston, Lloyd George and JFK were not bishops, consecrated to lives of holiness, but worldly men judged by worldly standards. 2. Offences against children ( as Our Lord himself stated in the Bible) count as far worse than offences against adults.

          • Lawrence James.

            ‘ If gold rusts then what shall iron do ?’ Chaucer’s parson stands apart from his fellow clerics who embrace just about every vice: they could be found in any century, including our own. Ideally, the clergy aspired to lofty standards, but many did not and embraced the indulgences of the laity.Time passes and I cannot recall specific mediaeval and 18th century examples, but I few hours in the Bodleian would reveal them. I do recall that it was common to attach charges of sodomy with heresy’

  • Davedeparis

    For the record, until the very end of the Second World War, except with expert aircrews in good weather, in summer, a city was the smallest target a bomber force could be expected to hit even in broad daylight. Although not as decisive as claimed by its advocates at the time area bombing nonetheless retarded the growth of enemy industry and damaged their moral and domestic political credibility. Usually overlooked, but perhaps most importantly though, is that through drawing off enemy fighter strength area bombing greatly facilitated allied tactical air superiority on the front lines and thus made possible the sweeping advances of the mid to late war period.

    • Peter Hitchens

      This defence of deliberately bombing civilians in their homes is highly questionable in purely military terms (please see http://dailym.ai/1DR4X2A). Even if the justification were better, I simply cannot see how this form of warfare can be justified by anyone professing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. .