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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.1: Introduction to the Peter Ball case study


1. Peter Ball was ordained in 1957. With his brother he founded a monastic order, the Community of the Glorious Ascension, of which he was a leading member for 20 years. In 1977, he became the Suffragan Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester. He became the Diocesan Bishop of Gloucester in 1992, a post he held for less than two years.

2. In 2015 he was convicted of two offences of indecent assault and an offence of misconduct in a public office, which involved 16 different victims. By his plea he accepted that he “obtained sexual gratification from the deliberate manipulation of vulnerable young men”.[1]

3. The Inquiry received evidence about allegations against Peter Ball from 33 individuals, including children and young men. There are allegations of sexual misconduct by Peter Ball as far back as 1969, when he was the Prior of the Community of the Glorious Ascension. As the Bishop of Lewes, he established an unregulated and unsupervised scheme in which young men would live with him in his diocesan home. He abused his position as Bishop of Lewes to groom, exploit and commit offences against teenage boys and young men. There is evidence that some within the Diocese of Chichester, in particular Bishop Eric Kemp, knew or suspected Peter Ball might have been involved in sexual misconduct but did nothing about it.

4. Despite this, in 1991, he was appointed as Diocesan Bishop of Gloucester with a favourable reference from Bishop Kemp. Peter Ball’s chaplain was informed that Peter Ball had been warned, upon appointment to Gloucester, that there should be “no more boys”.[2] In 1992 a young man named Neil Todd tried to take his own life. He subsequently tried to raise the alarm within the Church, reporting allegations against Peter Ball to a number of clergy, including two bishops. After he attempted to take his own life for a second time, Neil Todd’s parents reported his allegations to the police.

5. An investigation by Gloucestershire Constabulary identified a further six complainants. Lambeth Palace received letters containing accounts of sexual misconduct from seven teenagers and young men. In 1993, despite there being four potential charges available relating to offences concerning three young men, Peter Ball received a caution for one single offence of gross indecency with Neil Todd. As a result, he resigned as the Bishop of Gloucester on 7 March 1993.

6. Peter Ball surrounded himself with powerful and influential friends. He had connections with members of parliament, headmasters of prominent public schools, Lord Lloyd of Berwick (who was a judge of the Court of Appeal at the time of Peter Ball’s arrest and was subsequently a Law Lord) and His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. When Peter Ball was under police investigation, some of these persons of public prominence wrote in support of him. After he resigned, some of them encouraged his return to ministry and sought to assist him to do so.

7. Following his resignation, Peter Ball was not placed on the list of clergy about whom there were concerns – known within the Church as the ‘Caution List’ – and no disciplinary action was taken by the Church. Within two years of his resignation, following a campaign by Peter Ball, his brother and their supporters, Peter Ball was permitted to carry out services without a risk assessment or any real restriction upon his access to or work with children and young men. It took until 2012, and a fresh police investigation, for the extent of his offending to become known. He was convicted in 2015 and sentenced to 32 months in prison.

8. After this conviction, the Church prohibited him from ministry for life. Peter Ball can, however, still use the title ‘bishop’ if he wishes. Victims and survivors are concerned that he can continue to use this clerical address, despite his offending and his prohibition from ministry. For that reason, we will refer to him as ‘Peter Ball’ throughout this report.

9. The majority of Peter Ball’s convictions relate to sexual misconduct against vulnerable young men over the age of 18. Peter Ball also pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office in relation to children under 18.

Reasons for selection of the case study

10. The Inquiry wanted to investigate why an individual with a prominent position within the Church was able to offend so widely and for so long. When Peter Ball was arrested for the first time in 1992 he received a caution, despite the number of other witnesses and complainants who provided evidence capable of supporting the allegations by Neil Todd.

11. Questions have been raised about why Peter Ball was not subject to further criminal or disciplinary penalties in 1992, and why his offending had not come to light until 1992, when it appeared that some within the Church had knowledge of inappropriate behaviour between Peter Ball and young men prior to that. Some suggested Peter Ball’s status and powerful friends may have caused him to be treated more favourably than another, less prominent, member of the clergy would have been.

12. This case study enables the Inquiry to examine the approach of the Church, the police and the prosecution authorities, in particular, to offending by prominent individuals who were powerful within the institution they served. The following themes emerged during the course of this investigation:

a. The potential for members of clergy to abuse their position, and the trust placed in them, to commit offences against teenagers and young men.

b. The extent to which an offender’s presentation of charm, charisma and spiritualism could be used as a mask for offending behaviour.

c. The understanding of sexual offending within the Church at the time of the offending, arrests and subsequently.

d. The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his senior staff (which we will call collectively ‘Lambeth Palace’) and the Church’s willingness to respond appropriately to allegations of sexual offending.

e. The Church’s attitude towards homosexuality and the ways in which that attitude can impede the disclosure of sexual offending and influence the Church’s response to sexual offending.

f. The potential for institutions to be influenced by persons of public prominence in their response to allegations of sexual offences.

g. The extent to which persons of prominence influenced or attempted to influence institutions in the case of Peter Ball.

h. The extent to which the Church placed concern for its own reputation over concern for complainants, victims and survivors in its public and private responses to the allegations against Peter Ball.

i.  The suitability of the Church’s disciplinary procedures to deal with cases of this kind, against bishops in particular.

j.  The issue of clericalism and the way in which it affected the Church’s response to allegations against Peter Ball and its approach to complainants, victims and survivors. Clericalism was described by Archbishop Justin Welby as “a wider mindset in which the authority of the ordained ministry was thought of as beyond criticism”.[3]

k. Whether the old sexual offences regime was able to address such offending, and whether the new sexual offences regime is able to do so.

13. These issues are extracted from the definition of scope set by the Inquiry for the Anglican Church investigation, and by the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry set by the Home Secretary. The terms of the definition of scope for this case study are:

“3.2. the sexual offending by former Bishop of Lewes and subsequently Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, including the extent to which the Church of England, law enforcement agencies, prosecuting authorities, and/or any other institutions, bodies or persons of public prominence failed to respond appropriately to allegations of child sexual abuse by Peter Ball.”

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