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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.7: The response of the Church of England during the 1992 police investigation

The response of the Church to Peter Ball’s arrest

153. The Church should have ensured that there was no blurring of the boundaries between its pastoral role towards Peter Ball, the position of the Church, and the Archbishop’s potential role in taking disciplinary action against him. Such clarity was not evident.[1] The Church’s position was that Peter Ball should be protected in order to protect the Church of England and its reputation. Steps were therefore taken to assist Peter Ball in his defence,[2] which created a perception by victims and survivors that the Church was using its power to cover up criminal activity.

154. When Peter Ball was arrested on 14 December 1992, he sought assistance from June Rogers, a lawyer and Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester. Ms Rogers told the Inquiry that her first thought was to ensure that Peter Ball had some legal representation.[3] She therefore pointed him towards Chris Peak, a solicitor and the Diocesan Registrar (the legal adviser to the Diocese of Gloucester, a paid role to provide legal advice to the Diocese). Mr Peak had limited experience in criminal law.

155. Mr Peak represented Peter Ball in his capacity as the Diocesan Registrar. His fees were paid in part by the Church and in part by the Ball brothers. Peter Ball believes that there was a conflict of interest in Mr Peak’s role, as the interests of the Diocese of Gloucester and of himself personally within the criminal proceedings were not the same. Peter Ball believes that Mr Peak did not represent him appropriately. Mr Peak was also, Peter Ball claimed, “out of his depth”.[4] There is no evidence that this potential conflict was declared by Mr Peak or accepted by Peter Ball at the time. Mr Peak accepts the possibility of a conflict of interest but maintains this did not colour his advice to Peter Ball. Furthermore, Peter Ball had access to a solicitor within Mr Peak’s firm without links to the Diocese to secure impartiality, and also instructed an experienced senior barrister who had criminal expertise.[5] Mr Peak maintained that the caution and resignation were in the best interests of both Peter Ball and the Diocese of Gloucester.

156. Peter Ball was not suspended upon his arrest nor at any time during the criminal investigation. Whilst a priest or deacon could have been suspended if criminal charges were pending, ecclesiastical legislation did not give the Archbishop or anyone else the power to suspend a bishop at this time.[6] The Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM) 2003 allowed a bishop to be suspended but only if there had been an arrest. It was only from 2016 that there was power to suspend even without an arrest, if there was information to be satisfied that there was a significant risk of harm to children or vulnerable adults.[7]

157. On 15 December 1992, when Peter Ball was released on bail, he went straight to Lambeth Palace with Bishop Michael Ball to meet Archbishop George Carey.[8] Peter Ball says he told him everything.[9] Archbishop Carey told us Peter Ball protested his innocence, and that he and his brother said Peter “would never do a thing like that”.[10] Archbishop Carey told us Peter Ball accepted having a close relationship with Mr Todd but denied touching him sexually in any non-consensual way. The Archbishop asked whether there had been any penetrative sex and he was told there had not.[11]

158. There does not appear to have been any meaningful exploration of what had happened between Peter Ball and Mr Todd. The Archbishop failed to recognise the seriousness of offending which did not include penetration or the significance of the unequal power relationship which existed. He appeared at the time either unwilling or unable to distinguish between consensual homosexual relationships and the abusive behaviour displayed by Peter Ball.

159. No notes made at the time of this meeting have been located. Dr Frank Robson, the provincial registrar (the lawyer responsible for providing ecclesiastical and other specialist legal advice to the Archbishop of Canterbury), was summoned part way through the meeting but does not recall taking any notes.[12] Those who knew Dr Robson would have expected him to take notes at such a significant meeting, and for them to have been retained on file.

160. Archbishop Carey wrote to Peter Ball after their meeting. Regardless of what he was told by Peter Ball, he knew the nature of the allegations from Bishop Eric Kemp and Bishop Roy Williamson. He had been told that Peter Ball, then 60 years old, had abused his position to engage in sexual activity with a much younger man. Yet the Archbishop wrote to Peter Ball:

“You need to know further that the matter does not diminish my admiration for you or my determination to keep you on the episcopal bench ... so be encouraged and do not lose heart.”[13]

161. Despite now finding it “sickly”, Archbishop Carey stands by his letter and by his intention to keep Peter Ball on the episcopal bench because Peter Ball was a man with many gifts.[14] He “couldn’t believe that a bishop in the church of God could do such evil things”. Archbishop Carey said “I actually believed him for quite a time, because who else were complaining about him? I didn’t know these people”.[15] The Archbishop, possibly because of personal affection for Peter Ball, or his reputation, or simply his role as a bishop, attached more weight to Peter Ball’s word than that of Mr Todd.

162. It is clear that Archbishop Carey hoped the case would simply go away. He wrote to Bishop Michael Ball after Peter Ball’s arrest:

“If the police do not take this to prosecution ... then we could find the matter ends then and there. That is my hope and fervent prayer.”[16]

163. On 16 December 1992, Lambeth Palace issued a press release expressing unqualified support for Peter Ball:

“It must be emphasised that no charges have been brought against the Bishop, and the allegations made about him are unsubstantiated. Moreover, the Bishop has a proven record of outstanding pastoral work, particularly amongst young people.”[17]

The press release also promised that appropriate inquiries would be conducted by the Church and confirmed that the Archbishop had Peter Ball in his prayers at a difficult time. No mention was made of the complainant and no prayers were offered for his wellbeing. The public and Mr Todd were “left in no doubt as to where the Church’s sympathies lay”.[18]

164. Dr Andrew Purkis (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Secretary for Public Affairs) accepts it is likely that this statement would have been written at Lambeth Palace and checked by him and by the Archbishop. He now thinks that this statement was “a hostage to fortune”.[19]

Letters received at Lambeth Palace

165. During the course of the police investigation, a significant number of letters in support of Peter Ball were sent to Lambeth Palace.[20] Archbishop Carey was aware of a campaign by Bishop Kemp, and also Peter and Michael Ball themselves, to collect letters of support for Peter Ball. The knowledge that the campaign was orchestrated does not seem to have reduced the weight he attached to them.[21]

166. Lambeth Palace also received a number of letters which supported the allegations made by Mr Todd, or provided very similar examples of such behaviour from Peter Ball towards others. The first was received on 15 December 1992[22] from someone who had known Peter Ball for 14 years and held him in high esteem. He disclosed that when he was 23, as with Mr Todd, Peter Ball had suggested to him that they remove their clothes and pray together naked.

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167. This had the potential to support not only the truth of Mr Todd’s allegation but also Peter Ball’s defence.

168. A second letter was received on 19 December 1992 from AN-A93 who alleged that, when he was 17 years old, Peter Ball had used a counselling session at a school to ask him to masturbate in front of him.[23] Bishop John Yates did no more than acknowledge the letter:

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169. On 21 December 1992, Lambeth Palace received a third letter from someone who had considered priesthood and met with Peter Ball on several occasions during that time:[24]

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170. When he saw the newspaper coverage of Peter Ball’s arrest, AN-A10 wrote to Lambeth Palace on 21 December 1992, but did not feel able to write in further details.[25]

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171. His letter was acknowledged by Lambeth Palace but no one ever wrote to ask him what had happened or to arrange to meet with him. He felt very disappointed and let down.[26] In fact, AN-A10’s experience was similar to others. He met Peter Ball when he was 18 years old. They played squash together and afterwards he saw Peter Ball looking at his penis in the changing rooms. When he was 21, going through a difficult time and confused about his sexuality, he sought support from Peter Ball. During a counselling session, Peter Ball suggested they masturbate as a spiritual experience which would cleanse them of sin.[27]

172. Two further letters were received on 22 December 1992. Archbishop Carey received and read both.[28] The first was very brief and said only that the author was concerned to ensure that Peter Ball be prevented from running any further schemes or damaging any more young lives.[29] The Archbishop replied personally, encouraging the author to contact the police if they had any information;[30] she responded on 4 January 1993 with detailed allegations of abuse perpetrated against her son, AN-A108.[31]

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173. The author of the second letter made clear allegations about Peter Ball’s abuse of power, imploring Lambeth Palace to do something about it:[32]

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174. On 23 December 1992, a further letter was received:[33]

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175. Each letter had the potential to support the truth of the allegations by Mr Todd. They were from a number of individuals who were unrelated and unknown to one another; they could not be dismissed as part of any conspiracy to discredit Peter Ball. On the contrary, their tone suggests they were not mischief makers but supporters of Peter Ball and the Church who were genuine in their concern and not seeking publicity. Bishop Ronald Gordon, having discussed the letters with Peter Ball but without contacting any of the complainants directly, concluded “there is already enough evidence to suggest a picture of what has been happening”.[34]

176. Every letter was read and responded to by Lambeth Palace. The Archbishop replied to two personally and Bishop Yates to the rest.[35] Whilst Archbishop Carey was saddened and ashamed at some of the abuse described in these letters, he never considered it to amount to child sexual abuse, despite the fact that at least one of the individuals was under 18 when he was propositioned by Peter Ball in a school setting.[36]

The failure to provide the letters to the police

177. Gloucestershire Constabulary had reason to believe that there might be others who had written to the Archbishop and disclosed similar behaviour to that alleged by Mr Todd.[37] They had been contacted by AN-A93 and took a statement from him.

178. On 22 December 1992, DI Wayne Murdock attended Lambeth Palace. He believed arrangements had been made between Detective Superintendent John Bennett and Bishop Yates for the provision of everything held by Lambeth Palace on Peter Ball. DI Murdock reiterated this fact to Bishop Yates by telephone prior to his visit.[38] However, Bishop Yates provided DI Murdock with only one letter, from the individual who had considered naked prayer to be a spiritual experience.[39] He was not notified of the existence of any of the other letters.

179. Although his memory of this period is not very clear, Archbishop Carey does not accept that the meeting at Lambeth Palace was arranged for the purpose of receiving letters. Whilst he doubts that any conscious decision was made to withhold the letters, they were not something that Lambeth Palace at that time would naturally hand over to the police:

“There was a presumption at the time that private letters were private. It was also thought that exposure of embarrassing things would cause distress and damage careers.”[40]

180. However, Lambeth Palace felt able to provide one of the letters received to the police. Selecting the one which was not particularly damaging to Peter Ball, and indeed that might actually assist him, indicates that it was chosen carefully. The unavoidable conclusion is that someone at Lambeth Palace chose to withhold the remaining, and more damaging, letters from the police.

181. Whilst Archbishop Carey was present at Lambeth Palace, he did not personally meet with DI Murdock.[41] He was aware of the existence of all the letters before the conclusion of the investigation, and had read and responded to a number before DI Murdock attended Lambeth Palace. However, he took no action to request or ensure that all of these potentially relevant letters were provided to the police. He says no one ever advised him that they should be passed to the police.[42] Archbishop Carey also argued that the letters were not all handed over because the police had not requested them.[43]

182. These explanations are unimpressive. DI Murdock did not know what information Lambeth Palace held so he could not possibly have been expected to ask specifically for any of the letters. It was reasonable for him to expect that anything relevant would be provided. Furthermore, this provides no explanation as to why Lambeth Palace did volunteer one letter received but only the one capable of assisting Peter Ball. Archbishop Carey was likewise never advised against providing the letters to Gloucestershire Constabulary. He should have been able to recognise their potential relevance, as well as the importance of sharing them with the police.

183. DI Murdock and Gloucestershire Constabulary told us the letters might have affected both the course of the police investigation and its outcome. The police had heard from three of the individuals. If they had seen all of the letters it may have alerted them to other potential complainants and revealed new lines of inquiry. It was not for the Church to decide their use or relevance.[44] DI Murdock said that the “bottom line was, those letters should have been passed on for us to look at and for us to make the judgement in terms of what their evidential value was”.[45]

184. Archbishop Carey now accepts that these letters should all have been passed to the police[46] but it was submitted on his behalf that the police, through other means, had already identified and spoken to three of the individuals who had written to Lambeth Palace.[47] The fact that the police had already spoken with some of these complainants does not diminish the seriousness of the failure. The attitude at Lambeth Palace is reflected in the response from Lambeth Palace to one author, confirming the Archbishop had read the letter and “entirely endorses and supports your decision not to pass the information ... to the police”.[48]

185. The day after failing to provide DI Murdock with the potentially incriminating letters, Archbishop Carey received a memorandum from Bishop Yates. This shows that senior staff knew or believed that Peter Ball’s chances of avoiding a criminal prosecution depended on no further evidence of complaints coming to the attention of the police:

“If no more evidence is brought to the police, the prospect of a prosecution may be receding (but there are several worrying letters on which we await Frank Robson’s advice).”[49]

186. The Archbishops’ Council agree that there was “no good excuse” for the failure to pass those letters to the police, regardless of whether they were specifically requested. It was the Church’s responsibility to assist the police to reach a fully informed decision, not to select what material to give the police or to make assumptions about what information they already had.[50]

“It was no part of the Church’s function to shield any person from proper investigation by the police, or to act in a manner that might have caused decisions about prosecution to be taken on the basis of inadequate or inaccurate information.”

Archbishop George Carey’s Christmas message

187. On 23 December 1992, Archbishop Carey prepared a pastoral message to be read in the Diocese of Gloucester. He expressed his concern about the investigation and explained that, at his suggestion, Peter Ball had gone away to rest.

“We hope and pray that the investigation will clear his name and that he will be restored to his great work of Christian ministry ... Aware of the devastating effect that any such accusation has on those accused the Archbishop asks that people continue to remember Bishop Peter in their prayers.”[51]

188. Archbishop Carey made no mention at all of concern for Mr Todd, or indeed the other complainants who had written to him. He could not conceive that Peter Ball could have done anything too terrible. Looking at it now, Archbishop Carey accepted it was very one-sided and an unwise message to have sent. Such a statement would not be considered appropriate today.[52]

189. Archbishop Carey expressly asked people to pray that Peter Ball’s name be cleared. He did so despite having already received five letters from other complainants, which supported the allegations by Mr Todd and should have raised concerns about Peter Ball’s behaviour. He did so knowing that Peter Ball’s actions had caused a vulnerable young man to attempt suicide.

190. The impression created by this message was that Peter Ball had the full support of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Church. The Archbishops’ Council has acknowledged that, in issuing such a message, the Church paid little or no regard to the interests of the complainants.

The investigation into the letters received

191. The authors of the letters received at Lambeth Palace were promised that the Archbishop would ensure that they were investigated. From the original documents, what little investigation that did occur was focussed on protecting the reputation of the Church.

192. In a memorandum dated 23 December 1992, Bishop Yates expressed concern, not about the young men who had made allegations against Peter Ball, but that the stories could be offered to the media and pose a risk to his continuing ministry. He suggested that someone may need to see the men who had written of “‘incriminating’ incidents with Peter”.[53] This was not for the purpose of offering support, but to protect Peter Ball by assessing the truth of their accounts and checking whether they would go to the press.

193. Dr Purkis advised the Archbishop to instruct a senior and trusted person to carry out “a swift, pastoral enquiry” and “assess the veracity and significance of all the letters received at Lambeth”.[54] A handwritten note from Bishop Yates shows he thought the person appointed should be someone used to assessing evidence such as a lawyer or a retired judge, rather than a priest.

194. However, rather than appoint someone external or a retired judge, the letters were reviewed by Bishop Gordon, a retired clergyman who had previously been Bishop at Lambeth and chief of staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury.[55] He was assisted by Dr Robson, the provincial registrar. Neither had experience in responding to allegations of abusive behaviour. Their investigation involved little more than speaking to Peter Ball about the complaints made by Mr Todd and those set out in the letters received by Lambeth Palace in December 1992. They did not speak to any of the complainants because they thought this would place the Church “in a very difficult position indeed” if they made allegations which Peter Ball denied.[56]

195. Archbishop Carey agreed it would have been far better if they had selected an experienced lawyer. It was also a shame, he said, that he selected two older men who had no idea of child protection or safeguarding. Neither of them considered that these allegations amounted to child sexual abuse and therefore Archbishop Carey did not think he had to do anything.[57] This was despite the fact that a number of those who had written were under the age of 18 at the relevant time, and two alleged incidents occurred on school premises.

196. On 29 January 1993, Dr Robson and Bishop Gordon met with Peter Ball and one of his solicitors. Peter Ball admitted that although he did not accept everything Mr Todd alleged, he accepted enough to be guilty of gross indecency. He would not accept that he acted immorally.[58] Despite being withheld from the police, the letters at Lambeth Palace were shared with Peter Ball’s defence team in this meeting. The further allegations by AN-A117and AN-A98 were also discussed. Peter Ball sought to explain them away by saying that he had “wanted to live out the suffering of Christ in a soft world”.[59] He said he had shown those on the scheme a film about St Francis after which they had, he claimed, chosen to go to the chapel and “fling off their own clothes”.[60] His explanation is implausible. Anyone who heard it should have questioned seriously if Peter Ball was telling the truth.

197. Dr Robson advised the Archbishop of Canterbury that even if Peter Ball was not charged, there were arguments that he should resign because “a bishop should not put himself in a position where matters such as these can even be contemplated”.[61] He was concerned that the failure to take action would “reinforce the view that ... improper sexual behaviour, is rife in the C of E”.[62]

198. Bishop Gordon conducted no real analysis of the letters.[63] The letters alleged that a 58-year-old bishop had suggested that an unaccompanied 17-year-old schoolboy share his bed whilst naked[64] and that he had used a school counselling session to ask a 17-year-old schoolboy to masturbate in front of him.[65] Lambeth Palace had already received advice from the director of the Franciscan movement[66] that Peter Ball’s defence that he had acted in the Franciscan tradition was unsupported. Bishop Gordon concluded there was no tradition of individual or corporate nakedness as part of the expression of Christian spirituality, which Archbishop Carey read as saying that St Francis and his movement would wholly disapprove of this kind of behaviour.[67] Nonetheless, Peter Ball’s explanation was accepted.

199. Following the meeting, on 4 February 1993, Bishop Gordon advised Archbishop Carey that if Peter Ball resigned or was sent to trial he was sure that nothing more needed to be done with regard to the letters.[68] If, however, he were to resume his ministry as Bishop of Gloucester, he said it would be wise to prepare a defence against the possibility that these complainants would complain that no notice had been taken of them. He suggested writing to them to the effect that the Archbishop had spoken with Peter Ball and was sure there would be no recurrence of this “misjudgement”.

Archbishop George Carey’s letter to the police

200. On 5 February 1993, Archbishop Carey wrote to the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary. He claimed his letter was intended to “offer a few personal reflections” about Peter Ball. The letter stated that he was not attempting to influence the police enquiries. He repeated this to the Inquiry but acknowledged he would not write such a letter if he did not want it to have an impact.[69] In the letter, Archbishop Carey expressed his view that the allegations were “improbable” because Peter Ball was “an honourable man”. He went so far as to say that the allegations would be “quite unrepresentative of his style”.[70]

201. The Archbishops’ Council told us that whilst it may be appropriate for individuals within the Church to tell the police about Peter Ball’s wellbeing and mental health, it was not appropriate to do so in a way which might be misleading or inaccurate.

“The Church should not have engaged in anything which amounted to lobbying of the police or the prosecuting authorities on Peter Ball’s behalf, or indeed which might have been perceived in that way by the recipients of the relevant communications.”

The Archbishop’s letter fell below that standard.[71]

202. By this time, Lambeth Palace was aware of allegations relating to nine children and young men of a similar nature to those made by Mr Todd. In his letter, Archbishop Carey presented a misleading impression of his knowledge of Peter Ball’s character to Gloucestershire Constabulary. This was either because he disbelieved the other complainants who made allegations about Peter Ball or because he was hoping to protect Peter Ball from the possibility of prosecution. Neither conclusion is edifying and this letter should not have been written, particularly by a man seen as a leader on issues of morality and conscience.

References

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