LETTER: In defence of clergyman

I was both astonished and appalled to see the late Bishop George Bell of Chichester described in last Friday’s Herald as someone who ‘was recently revealed as a paedophile who sexually abused a young child’.

Astonished, because it seems the paper is completely unaware of the current national outcry against the Church of England’s casual trashing of the reputation of one of the most courageous church leaders of the last 100 years. Appalled, because the Herald’s description of the bishop repeats an unproven allegation of child abuse made against him by a person so anonymous that we are not even allowed to know his or her sex. The accusation against the bishop was first made decades after his death in a one-sided secret process in which the accused could not have a voice or been represented by anyone to protect his interests. Repeating the charge as though it were proven fact is poor quality work by journalists who should be alert to the difference between a charge and a conviction. I note a final decision on the renaming of Bishop Bell School is due to be made at a governors’ meeting on January 25. I hope they reflect on the fact that the presumption of innocence is one of the most important of the British values that they presumably believe their school should be imparting to its pupils.

Roger Barnard

Devonshire Place

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