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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.3: Peter Ball’s time in Lewes

Peter Ball’s appointment as Bishop of Lewes

34. Peter Ball’s ambition to become a bishop was evident from the early 1970s. At least one bishop, in 1976, commented “it is strange, perhaps, to voice one’s ambitions in this way”.[1]

35. Following encouragement from Jock Henderson, Bishop of Bath and Wells,[2] Bishop Eric Kemp decided to suggest Peter Ball as the new Bishop of Lewes (at that time a suffragan bishop). Peter Ball was appointed in February 1977. He remained a member of the CGA but stepped down as Prior.[3] As one of the very few members of a religious community to be appointed as a bishop since the establishment of the Church of England, Peter Ball was not a usual choice in many respects. He moved to a cottage near Lewes, and subsequently the Priory at Litlington, with a number of the CGA brothers.[4]

36. Peter Ball spent 14 years as the Bishop of Lewes. As diocesan bishop, Bishop Kemp appeared to exercise minimal supervision over Peter Ball and visited Litlington Priory rarely. According to Bishop John Hind (principal of the nearby Chichester Theological College for a significant period during this time), Peter Ball treated the area of Lewes as his “independent fiefdom”.[5]

Peter Ball’s offending whilst Bishop of Lewes

37. Peter Ball, when entering his guilty plea in 2015, accepted that he had “abused his position as a bishop” to “identify, groom and exploit” sensitive teenagers and young men aged between 17 and 25. He used religion as “a cloak behind which he hid a search to satisfy his sexual interest”. He induced people to remove their clothes or otherwise engage in activity for his sexual gratification by telling them that “their social life would be improved by engaging in the acts he suggested”.[6]

38. He also suggested to all of his victims that the sexual acts were part and parcel of religious practice or spiritual observance as he viewed it. For example, Peter Ball met AN‐A102 in 1977 when AN-A102 was 15 years old and Peter Ball conducted his confirmation. When he was 16 years old, AN-A102 sought pastoral guidance from Peter Ball. Peter Ball asked him to remove his clothing and stand naked in front of the vestry mirror which, he said, was a metaphor for the eyes of God. Peter Ball claimed this would help him to find humility.[7] He likewise asked AN-A102 to remove his clothing under the guise of providing pastoral support when he was 18 years old.

39. In order to be put forward as a potential cleric, the approval of a bishop was and is required as a sponsor. Peter Ball therefore had power to recommend or not those who wished to become ordained. Peter Ball abused the power and influence his role gave him. For example, when AN-A114 met with Peter Ball to ask for his recommendation for ordination, he used these meetings to repeatedly ask AN-A114 to remove his clothing.[8]

40. Mr Graham Sawyer (now Reverend Sawyer) was sponsored by Peter Ball for ordination. During their meetings, Peter Ball would play “mind games” by emphasising the importance of commitment to God in the way of St Francis of Assisi. He repeatedly put his arm around Mr Sawyer in a “groping way” and suggested he should take his clothes off before him. On one occasion, he started to remove Mr Sawyer’s clothes.[9] Peter Ball denied telling Mr Sawyer that his ordination depended on his response, but Mr Sawyer alleged that Peter Ball made it very clear that it did. When Mr Sawyer refused, Peter Ball withdrew his endorsement. As a result, Mr Sawyer withdrew his application for ordination.[10] He applied again for ordination some years later and was rejected, because it was said that by refusing the first recommendation, he had shown “instability of life”. He was told there was “a big black mark” against his name in the Church of England.[11] He was subsequently ordained. Reverend Sawyer believes that his disclosures and his vocal criticism of Peter Ball alienated him from people within the Church and had a very damaging effect upon his clerical career.[12]

The Give a Year to God scheme

41. In 1980, Peter Ball established his Give a Year to God scheme (the scheme). He said that its purpose was to evangelise young people and to act as an opportunity for those who were considering a career in the Church to test their commitment by living with him in Litlington Priory, a house owned by the Diocese of Chichester and used by Peter Ball as his home. This was meant to be for a year or so.[13] The scheme was set up with the knowledge and endorsement of Bishop Kemp. There is no evidence that anyone ever came to check on those enrolled on the scheme, and there seems to have been no formal oversight of it by the Diocese.[14]

42. Members of the scheme (commonly referred to as schemers) were predominantly male. They were accommodated throughout East Sussex but most of the males would stay with Peter Ball at Litlington Priory.[15]

43. The scheme was run by Peter Ball with assistance from a friend and cleric who lived nearby, Reverend Vickery House, and another brother from the CGA. Those on the scheme learned about monastic life whilst living and working at Litlington or nearby, before being sent to work in the community and parishes of Lewes.[16] There were some religious discussion groups and religious teaching was carried out, mainly by Vickery House and Peter Ball who would debate and discuss religious matters over meals or after dinner. There was no formal or set programme but the theological element of the scheme emphasised humility, obedience and living a spartan life.

44. The scheme does not seem to have been advertised widely or run on any kind of systematic basis. From the evidence given both by Peter Ball and by others who participated in the scheme participants learned about it through word of mouth. Most individuals approached Peter Ball after hearing about the scheme through a school or university chaplain. In addition, Peter Ball spoke regularly at public and independent schools, including about the scheme, and often people would approach him afterwards. There were usually between two and 10 schemers at any one time [17] but there were as many as 24 in 1985.[18]

45. The scheme seemed to attract some young people who were vulnerable and confused about the direction of their lives. For example, when AN-A117 joined, he was 17 years old and struggling to come to terms with his sexuality. He said he was filled with self-hatred and, for him, Christianity was a form of ‘salvation’.[19]

46. AN-A117 was woken by Peter Ball in the mornings, expected to undress and follow him downstairs. He was required to take a cold shower for a full minute whilst Peter Ball watched and timed him. AN-A117 said he was terrified but believed this to be necessary to pursue his religious calling. Peter Ball also made lewd comments to AN-A117 and suggested repeatedly that they watch television together naked. Peter Ball told him that such ‘humiliation’ was part of the teaching of St Francis and would provide a more direct route to a closer relationship to God.[20]

47. Peter Ball admitted that he used the scheme to commit offences against vulnerable young men. He told the young people that acts of nudity – which gave Peter Ball sexual gratification – were part and parcel of monastic life and religious teaching, which they were not. The acts in which some young people participated on the scheme were not part of the approved teaching of either the Church of England or of St Francis of Assisi.[21] For example, he told AN-A117 that if he were to ‘sin’ by masturbating, he and Peter Ball should beat one another or masturbate one another to humiliate themselves. AN-A117 was encouraged not to tell people about this activity. Peter Ball has accepted that he often told young people who participated in such acts not to say anything about what had happened.[22]

48. Peter Ball knew people were concerned about what was happening at Litlington Priory and considered it “inappropriate”. He denied that Bishop Kemp had ever tried to ‘shut down’ the scheme. Bishop Kemp did speak to Peter Ball about whether or not his relationships with the young men were appropriate and advised him to “be careful” (rather than trying to prevent any risk of harm to young people).[23]

49. Reverend Malcolm Dodd was the diocesan youth officer for Chichester whilst Peter Ball was running the scheme. He was told in 1982, by the then Bishop of Horsham, that there were problems of a sexual nature concerning Peter Ball and young people.[24]

50. Peter Ball used the scheme as a way to attract young people to be near to him, and to provide the opportunity to offend when they were in his house. He accepted in 2015 that he:

“whilst having established a genuine course of religious thinking and tuition for young people to study and follow under the Scheme, then took the opportunity to commit the acts comprising the misconduct under the guise of those acts being a further part of the austere regime of devotion and religious teachings, when they were not”.[25]

51. He did not seek to engage in sexualised behaviours with all those who were on the scheme, but seemed to recognise or identify those who were more vulnerable or naive in some way. To that extent, his actions were calculating.

52. Some individuals within the Church thought his behaviour was at the least odd, but no one took any action about it. There was a significant absence of supervision or oversight; someone from the Diocese could and should have enquired about what was happening at the Priory. In the context of the 1980s, it was unusual to have a residential scheme designed and run for young people with no external pastoral oversight or supervision, if only to check the accommodation met basic requirements.

Work in schools

53. Peter Ball developed a reputation for his work with children and young people. In 1983, the Scout Association was looking for a ‘religious consultant’. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, consulted Bishop Kemp, who said Peter Ball had “for a good many years been well into this field of headmasters and chaplains of public schools” and so he should take the role.[26]

54. Peter Ball was a member of the governing body of a number of schools, sometimes because as Bishop of Lewes he was a nominated governor on behalf of the Church of England, and sometimes because of his personal connection with the school or individuals who taught there. Peter Ball said he would go to schools on invitation from headmasters and other bishops. He was invited regularly to preach, and sometimes stay overnight. He would also provide counselling to students, often on an individual basis. On such occasions, according to Peter Ball, no steps were taken to supervise the work he undertook.[27]

55. James Woodhouse, former headmaster at Rugby School and Lancing College, said Peter Ball had attended both schools to preach and speak to the pupils. He did on occasion meet with pupils ‘one-to-one’ by arrangement with the staff. Mr Woodhouse was never aware, from pupils, parents or staff, of sexual advances at that time.[28] He wrote to police in 1993 in support of Peter Ball. He confirmed he was aware that Peter Ball had been involved, with young people, in “acts of penitence and contrition” and that “these may have been open to misunderstanding and mis-representation ... The Bishop may have failed to judge the appropriateness of such exercises”.[29]

56. Peter Ball met AN-A96 when he was 13 years old and boarding at Lancing College. He had regular counselling sessions with Peter Ball when he was aged between 13 and 18. Peter Ball admitted suggesting to AN-A96, during one of these sessions when AN-A96 was 13 years old, that he should remove his clothing and kneel naked before him to be ‘re- baptised’. This baptism did not take place until he was over 18. AN-A96 said that, at Peter Ball’s request and whilst naked, he would massage Peter Ball’s groin area close to his genitals because Peter Ball claimed he had muscular pain.[30]

57. Ian Beer, who had been headmaster of Ellesmere College and subsequently Lancing College, recalled an occasion when a pupil from one of these schools went to stay at the priory of the CGA for one week. The priory was not inspected by the school but the child’s parents were consulted. They received no report or complaint upon his return.[31]

58. AN-A2 was 15 or 16 years old in 1985 when he was suspended from his boarding school for getting into trouble. He was sent to stay with Peter Ball at Litlington Priory. He alleged Peter Ball came to his bedroom, got into bed with him, and hugged him and offered reassurance. AN-A2 also said that sometimes Peter Ball would masturbate whilst in bed with him.[32] Peter Ball entered a not guilty plea to this allegation and maintains that the conduct did not occur.

59. These examples show that Peter Ball’s home was used as a place of refuge. As he was considered to be a man of God, his character was viewed as unimpeachable. This was why no serious thought was given to the child’s welfare and safety.

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