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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.12: The Northamptonshire Police investigation

371. In the course of their 2006–2008 investigation into Colin Pritchard and Roy Cotton,[1] Northamptonshire Police were informed by Mrs Shirley Hosgood (at that time the Chichester Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser) that, when reviewing files about Cotton and Pritchard, she had come across information about Peter Ball and consequently made enquiries about him. She told Detective Constable David Charman, the officer in charge of the case, that Lambeth Palace held letters containing allegations against Peter Ball. Northamptonshire Police then sought copies of those letters from Lambeth Palace but were informed by the Church of England that they would not provide them without an order from a court.[2]

372. Northamptonshire Police began the process of applying for the necessary order. In the meantime, Lambeth Palace wrote to each author asking for permission to share the information with Northamptonshire Police.

373. The letters were sent to Northamptonshire Police after consent was obtained[3] and Northamptonshire Police were offered the opportunity to attend Lambeth Palace and review the files held there.[4] All the letters were reviewed by a detective inspector in Northamptonshire Police and passed to the CPS. The CPS advised verbally that the letters did not disclose any criminal offences. No official record was made of this advice by the CPS. However, Mrs Kate Wood (a former police officer)[5] considered the allegation of AN‐A93 may amount to a criminal offence and, as a result, Northamptonshire Police asked for AN‐ A93’s letter[6] to be reviewed again by the CPS. The advice, again received verbally, was that no criminal offences had been committed.[7] Mr McGill agreed the advice provided by the CPS should have been provided clearly and in writing.[8]

374. On the basis of the content of the letters, without knowing further relevant information such as the circumstances, or the age of the complainant, it is the case that they do not disclose obvious criminal offences.

375. After the CPS reviewed the letters, Northamptonshire Police wrote to each author, saying they were “trying to identify anyone who may have been a victim of Rev Colin Pritchard, Rev Roy Cotton or Bishop Peter Ball”. The police asked whether the author was “ever introduced to Rev Colin Pritchard and Rev Roy Cotton and whether they abused” them. They did not ask the individuals to discuss or disclose any further information about Peter Ball’s offending, having explained that the CPS had reviewed the original letter about Peter Ball and had advised either that no criminal offence had been committed,[9] or that there was not enough detail in the letter to Lambeth Palace to reach a view.[10]

376. In relation to AN‐10, whose letter to Lambeth Palace was one of those on which there was not enough information for the CPS to reach a view, Northamptonshire Police said:

“You do not refer to anything criminal. If anything of a criminal nature did happen then you could contact the Police Force that covers the geographical area in which it happened and ask for it to be investigated.”[11]

377. AN‐A10 said that when he received this letter he was relieved that someone was finally getting in touch with him. However, as the letter asked him whether he had met, or was abused by, Cotton or Pritchard, he responded to say no.[12]

378. Mrs Wood said that having reviewed the material held at Lambeth Palace, she indicated to DC Charman that she was concerned there was more to the case of Peter Ball than met the eye.[13] However, there is no record of further investigations carried out by Northamptonshire Police into Peter Ball.[14]

379. Northamptonshire Police were at that time investigating the allegations against Cotton and Pritchard. It was not an investigation into Peter Ball, but when they became aware of information about possible offending by him, it should have been fully investigated.

380. Northamptonshire Police did contact each of the authors of the letters, but focussed on whether they had information about Cotton and Pritchard. This was because the CPS had already advised that the letters did not disclose any criminal offences.

381. The complainants should have been seen in person before the CPS were consulted. Many of the letters did not provide enough information for an informed view to be reached about whether any criminal offence had been committed. For example, there was no information about the complainant’s age or the details of the allegation. The CPS should not have provided advice without knowing all the necessary information. Further, any advice should have been thorough and provided in writing.


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