York Minster bells silent on Christmas Day after bell-ringing team disbanded

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The bells of York Minster fell silent on Christmas Day for the first time in over 600 years following the controversial break-up of their bell-ringing team.

Visitors and worshippers at the world-famous cathedral had been warned to expect a silent Christmas after the move in October which saw the Minster's Chapter disband its 30-strong ringing group due to safeguarding concerns.

This provoked a storm of controversy with one group of campanologists from Leeds reportedly refusing to help out, in solidarity with their sacked York colleagues.

The Dean of York Minster Vivienne Faull and the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, who supported the decision, were both in attendance at the service.

The decision came after the ringers refused to accept the decision not to reinstate one of its members, who had been suspended following a police investigation into allegations of sex offending against children which did not lead to a prosecution.

This member has not been named by the Chapter but is understood to be David Potter, a leading light of the campanology world, who was given an MBE for his services to bell-ringing and has never been convicted of any offences.

Mr Potter was the subject of a police investigation in 1999 which was reviewed again in 2014 but he was never charged.

The Chapter of York Minster ordered a detailed risk assessment of Mr Potter's activities and decided he "presented an ongoing risk and that the potential severity of the risk meant they could not be reinstated".

It said the bell ringers refused to accept this decision and so had to be disbanded.

In October, Mr Potter's solicitor, Colin Byrne, said: "Mr Potter has no cautions or convictions or any civil findings ever made against him.

"Issues surrounding the bell ringers and the Minster is a private and confidential matter between those two parties but the process that he has been subject to has shown a disregard for due process and equally the treatment of his fellow bell-ringers."