Skip to main content

0800 917 1000 Open weekdays 8am-8pm, Saturdays 10am-12pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

B.9: Operation Perry

Establishment of Operation Perry

419. The completed report of Lady Butler‑Sloss, along with the letter she sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury, was given to Sussex Police. Both documents were critical of the force and its handling of child abuse allegations. In response, Sussex Police commissioned two of its own officers to review the police actions in all cases mentioned within the report.

420. In August 2011, Mr Colin Perkins allowed the police to attend the diocesan offices and examine all case records. These included the blue files and safeguarding files that were held in respect of each alleged perpetrator.[1] It is important to note that the available records were limited to those kept in the Diocese. Files were stored in different places rather than in a single, comprehensive central record.

421. The officers recommended that a team of officers be assigned to reinvestigate the allegations made against Rideout, Coles and Graves. This investigation commenced in October 2011 and was given the title of Operation Perry. We commend Sussex Police for its proactive response to the criticisms of Lady Butler‑Sloss. Given its errors during earlier investigations, the force acted correctly in reopening these cases.

The investigative process

422. Sussex Police set up an Investigative Management Group, which met at regular intervals and was chaired by the Senior Investigating Officer. The group comprised representatives from East and West Sussex local authorities and Barnardo’s. It also included Mr Keith Akerman as Chair of the Safeguarding Advisory Group, and Mr Perkins on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester.

423. During Operation Perry, the police reinterviewed a number of individuals and made efforts to trace other potential witnesses. A further 16 complainants were identified in the Rideout case, leading to his arrest in March 2012.[2] Robert Coles was also arrested in March 2012, after statements were taken from three complainants. These included the victims who had reported their abuse to the Church in 1997 and 2002.[3] In 2015, charges were authorised against Jonathan Graves in respect of four victims.[4]

Provision of victim support

424. AN‑A15 described the support provided during Operation Perry as “worlds apart” from her experience in 1972. Sussex Police officers were “much more enlightened and they made it very easy and they were very good”.[5] The Diocese of Chichester agreed to fund 12 sessions of counselling for each victim of Rideout and Coles.[6] Mr Perkins clarified this offer was “not a limit … in many cases, we provided far more than twelve sessions of support”.[7]

425. Operation Perry also set up a dedicated NSPCC hotline for any victims who required support during the investigative process. In addition, Ms Gemma Wordsworth was recruited to join the Diocese of Chichester Safeguarding Team as a specialist Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Adviser (IDSVA). During Operation Perry, she worked closely with the police to provide ongoing support during investigations and criminal trials. She also guided senior clergy in preparing for their meetings with victims and writing letters of apology.

426. Ms Wordsworth described her position as one which achieved “a balance of independence and connection”, as it was based within the Church but she was seconded from the local authority. She therefore retained a degree of independence.[8] There was no time limit on the assistance provided to victims and survivors. All support was tailored to the needs of the individual, and “the door was always left open should they have needed to re‑engage at a later date”. Ms Wordsworth recalled that victims viewed this treatment as a “luxury”, given that many other agencies enforced a set number of counselling sessions or limiting criteria.[9]

427. The work of Ms Wordsworth has been universally praised by victims and survivors, the Diocese and the police. It continues to provide a practical mechanism for victims to receive support with a degree of independence from the Diocese.

428. As Mr Perkins suggested, “dioceses should explore with local ISVA service providers various working arrangements, to incorporate the ISVA role into their response to victims of sexual abuse”.[10] We consider that the availability of an IDSVA would be beneficial in all dioceses. His or her expertise, combined with the knowledge of the Diocesan Safeguarding Team, would allow for holistic care of victims and survivors. The Church may wish to employ IDSVAs to run a central service for victims and survivors who are dealt with on a national level. They could also be used to plug gaps in local services.

Relationship between Sussex Police and the Diocese of Chichester

429. Assistant Chief Constable Laurence Taylor remarked that “good information sharing between Sussex Police and the Diocese has been a feature throughout this investigation”.[11] All Church records were proactively made available by Mr Perkins, and he liaised closely with the police for the duration of Operation Perry. In an email from the Senior Investigating Officer, Mr Perkins was credited with being “such a good ally” who represented the “calm, collaborative face of the Diocese”.[12]

430. In return, Sussex Police engaged well with both the Diocese and Lambeth Palace. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury was supplied with a detailed briefing note during the course of Operation Perry. This note included the nature of the investigation, its current status and other planned investigative activity.[13]

431. It is evident that a strong and effective relationship was built between the police and the Church. The high level of co‑operation from both contributed to a significant level of progress within a short period of time. Ultimately, it allowed for the successful convictions of a number of perpetrators. This is in marked contrast to what had come before, which was a continuing lack of mutual engagement and information sharing. It is a model of good practice which should be practised elsewhere. A set of relevant protocols should be devised and disseminated to every diocese and Church institution.

Back to top