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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

C.13: Operation Dunhill

Further review by Kate Wood in 2012

382. The letters sent to Lambeth Palace in 1992–1993 were considered by Northamptonshire Police in 2008 and by Sussex Police in 2010. In 2012, Mrs Kate Wood remained concerned there had not been any “digging going on”. She continued to have real concerns about Peter Ball, which were shared by the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers in Chichester and Bath and Wells.[1]

383. In 2012, press interest in the case of Peter Ball was growing. As a result, Lambeth Palace decided to collate and examine all files relating to Peter Ball.[2] Archbishop Rowan Williams was advised by Mr Andrew Nunn that:

“the clouds are gathering around Peter Ball and we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable storm ... too much has been swept under the carpet for too long: the furniture in this particular room will no longer stand steady and may be about to topple. We feel quite strongly that for your own reputation you need to take the initiative and pre­emptive action.”[3]

384. Information was sought from Lambeth Palace and the dioceses of Chichester, Gloucester, and Bath and Wells. At the time of the Mellows review,[4] there were nine files in relation to Peter Ball available to the reviewers. When the information from the dioceses was collected at Lambeth Palace, “a significant pile” of information was identified. The most significant new information was found in the Chichester correspondence file, held at the Palace in Chichester separately from Peter Ball’s blue personnel file. Here, Mrs Wood found the report Reverend Brian Tyler commissioned in 1992; this was not found at Lambeth Palace and so was unknown to reviewers from 1992 to 2012.[5]

385. Mrs Wood was both shocked and angry that she had not been aware of this report during her work in the preceding four years.[6] She was concerned by the issues raised in Reverend Tyler’s report about DI Wayne Murdock, and the further allegations against Peter Ball that he had unearthed. As a result, she wrote a further report for the Archbishop and spoke to Mrs Elizabeth Hall, the National Safeguarding Adviser at that time.[7]

386. They sought advice from Mr Peter Davies, a senior police officer from the Association of Chief Police Officers and chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command. As a result of that discussion, Mrs Wood conducted further investigative work. Having identified that most of the allegations related to offending within the Sussex area, they referred their findings, with the assistance of Peter Davies, to Sussex Police in May 2012.[8]

387. Operation Dunhill formally began on 25 July 2012. Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes (now Detective Superintendent Hughes) was the officer in charge of the case.

388. Tragically, Neil Todd took his own life in July 2012, just days before Operation Dunhill formally commenced. Mrs Wood had been in contact with Mr Todd, who had been made aware of the renewed inquiries into Peter Ball’s offending by a BBC journalist. Sussex Police had not formally commenced their investigation, and she was concerned she could not provide Mr Todd with much information, which could be reported in the press and risk prejudicing the investigation.[9] Mrs Wood had already put Mr Todd in touch with Sussex Police and he had spoken once or twice to one of the investigating officers. They had not yet put in place witness support arrangements and so no formal support had been offered or provided to Mr Todd.[10] However, Mrs Wood discussed with Mr Nunn the possibility of the Church arranging counselling for Mr Todd, as well as an apology from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

389. As part of the investigation, Sussex Police obtained files from Gloucestershire Constabulary and Northamptonshire Police. They received all papers relating to Peter Ball held at Lambeth Palace, including all letters sent to Lambeth Palace in 1992–1993 and a full copy of Reverend Tyler’s report. As a result of information in the report, DCI Hughes began with real concerns about the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation. Upon receipt of the Gloucestershire file, he thought DI Murdock had made some brave decisions in the course of the investigation.[11]

390. The first priority for Operation Dunhill was to identify potential complainants, contact them and protect them from any influence by Peter Ball or his supporters. DCI Hughes was aware of the significant levels of support for Peter Ball within the Church, although there were no instances of attempted influence during his investigation.[12] In order to identify further potential complainants, all of the former schemers were traced and contacted including those who had written to Lambeth Palace in 1992–1993, AN‐A10 being one of them.[13] In total, the investigation spoke to 22 complainants and found evidence of wide‐ ranging and serious allegations against Peter Ball.

391. Such was Peter Ball’s health throughout the investigation that he could not be formally arrested or interviewed under caution. He provided, through his solicitor, a written response to the allegations in which he claimed that his caution in 1993 encapsulated all other offences committed and so presented a bar to his prosecution.[14]

Co-operation between the Church and Sussex Police

392. Throughout Operation Dunhill, an “unprecedented working relationship was developed by the Church and the police. The flow of information was essential”.[15] Mrs Wood was seconded from Lambeth Palace to the investigation team and there was a close working relationship with Mr Colin Perkins, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser in Chichester.[16] Mrs Wood was able to receive firsthand information from the officer in charge and to pass it on to the Church and the Diocese of Chichester as appropriate.

393. The co‐operation was particularly effective in providing support to complainants, victims and survivors. Following the model established in Operation Perry,[17] they were given a designated point of contact within the investigation. They were also separately provided with support via the Diocese of Chichester and Ms Gemma Wordsworth (now Mrs Marks‐Good), the Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Adviser who also worked closely with the police.[18]

External contact with the investigation

394. The new investigation was reported widely as soon as it began and throughout its course. This prompted eight new complainants to approach the police during the investigation and a further three following Peter Ball’s conviction.[19]

395. Sussex Police did not receive anything like the volume of letters in support of Peter Ball that Gloucestershire Constabulary had in 1992–1993. They did receive three letters from Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who wrote to complain about Peter Ball’s treatment on arrest and to question why they were investigating him at all. He wrote again later to complain about the length of time being taken and, in particular, the effect this was having on Peter Ball’s health. Though Sussex Police responded to Lord Lloyd’s letters, they did not have any effect on the course or conduct of the investigation.[20]

396. Lord Carey maintained his support for Peter Ball, telling the investigating officers that he believed Peter Ball “had been punished enough”.[21] He provided a witness statement to the defence team in support of their argument that Peter Ball’s prosecution would be an abuse of process,[22] but did not provide a statement to the police.

397. DCI Hughes was aware from the outset of the investigation that Peter Ball had a friendship with the Prince of Wales, and that there was a large amount of correspondence between them held at Lambeth Palace. He recorded this in his files, including that he did not consider it to be relevant to the investigation and so had not taken possession of it.[23]

398. During the investigation, Sussex Police were contacted by a staff officer to the Prince of Wales who believed the police had seized, in the course of their investigation, material which might be embarrassing to the Prince of Wales. As a result of this contact, the Chief Constable of Sussex Police spoke to DCI Hughes and asked him to check the material for anything that could be embarrassing to the Prince of Wales. He confirmed there was not. DCI Hughes recorded at the time, and confirmed to the Inquiry, that he did not feel that any pressure had been placed upon him or his team by the Chief Constable as a result of this contact.[24]

399. In his letter to the Inquiry, the Prince of Wales said the contact was made by a member of the Metropolitan Police Royal Protection team. They “wished to avoid any appearance of influence” and the enquiry was about the “correct ownership” of a letter from the Prince of Wales to Peter Ball seized by Sussex Police.[25]

Referral to the Crown Prosecution Service

400. Sussex Police referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a decision in January 2013. No decision was taken until March 2014.

401. This significant delay caused the police very real difficulties in managing the expectations of complainants, victims and survivors. Reverend Graham Sawyer complained that the police could have kept in touch with him more and that months elapsed between contacts.[26] There was a growing belief, in particular from the family of Neil Todd, that there was a conspiracy or “establishment cover up” involving the police and the CPS to allow Peter Ball to evade justice.[27] One complainant withdrew from the prosecution, and he was not alone in his feelings.[28] He said:

“It is clear to me that the CPS are dragging their feet because of Ball’s connections and his former status, although you can dress it up as legal complications ... This has gone on too long. It has put enormous strain on me and it is not fair. My current circumstances mean I am withdrawing.”[29]

402. In trying to explain the delay, Mr McGill told us it was a complicated case. As the decision to caution had been taken by, or with the agreement of, the DPP in 1993, Peter Ball’s case had to be considered at the most senior level and was referred to the Principal Legal Adviser (PLA) to the DPP. However, the case was with the Sussex CPS office for six months before preliminary advice was drafted and the case referred to the PLA.[30] It was a further four months before a case conference was arranged between the PLA, the CPS team and the police. 

403. A possible charge of misconduct in a public office was considered for the first time in December 2013, 11 months after the referral to the CPS. At that time, misconduct in a public office was being litigated in the appellate courts and, therefore, the delay from December 2013 until March 2014 was understandable. Nonetheless, it had taken too long to reach this point.

404. The CPS were informed a number of times by the police about the detrimental effect the delay was having upon the complainants, victims and survivors. Mr McGill agreed “14 months to take a charging decision instinctively feels ... too long, even for a complicated matter like this”.[31]

The selection of charges

405. As in 1992–1993, it was difficult for the CPS to identify charges which encapsulated the criminality of Peter Ball’s actions. The primary difficulty was that many of the complainants, victims and survivors had ostensibly consented, albeit reluctantly. This would generally provide a defence to charges of indecent assault. As the law stands, neither the fact that they had not been aware of Peter Ball’s true sexual motive, nor the fact that they had believed his activities to have a religious purpose, was likely to prevent him relying upon their consent in his defence.[32]

406. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 contains a category of offences which criminalise the abuse of positions of trust to engage in sexual activity with children, in particular those between the ages of 16 and 18, or to cause or incite a child to engage in sexual activity.[33] Positions of trust are defined to include those who look after children in local authority care or in a hospital, care home or residential school. A member of the clergy would not be included in the current definition of a position of trust. Had the category of offences been broad enough to include members of clergy or those with positions of responsibility within the Church, Peter Ball could have been charged with a number of such offences, without consent being an issue as it was in 1992–1993 and 2013–2014.[34] Mrs Hall endorsed making this amendment and said she was aware of other cases that had faced similar challenges.[35]

407. Ultimately, the CPS advised that Peter Ball would be charged with:

  1. misconduct in a public office in respect of misusing his position as Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester as regards 16 complainants;

  2. indecent assault of Reverend Sawyer;

  3. indecent assault of AN‐A117;

  4. indecent assault of Mr Johnson; and

  5. indecent assault of AN‐A2.

408. On 26 March 2014, Sussex Police were informed the CPS had reached their decision but were not told what the charges would be. Instead the police were to receive the information the following day, one hour before it was announced publicly to the press. DCI Hughes said this put Sussex Police in a difficult position, trying to contact all of the complainants, victims and survivors to inform them of this important decision before it became public knowledge. In his view, it was highly unusual and placed the interests of the CPS above those of the complainants, victims and survivors.[36]

Peter Ball’s defence and guilty pleas

409. There were lengthy and complex legal arguments from Peter Ball’s defence team about the charges. In particular, it was argued that he had been told in 1993 that his acceptance of the caution would preclude further action on other allegations. Once the defence arguments were dismissed and the trial judge ordered the trial to go ahead, the defence approached the prosecution about potential guilty pleas and the basis on which Peter Ball would plead guilty.

410. There was some correspondence between the prosecution and the defence about what pleas would be acceptable. The main area of disagreement was that Peter Ball would not accept indecently assaulting AN‐A2 or Philip Johnson, who had been children at the relevant times. Mr McGill said this was not plea bargaining. He said that if the defence indicates their willingness to plead guilty in relation to some counts on an indictment and indicates the factual basis on which they do so, the prosecution must review the case to determine whether it would be in the public interest to proceed to trial on the remaining counts, and whether those guilty pleas would provide the court with sufficient sentencing powers to reflect the seriousness of the case.[37]

411. By the time the case was considered by the CPS, the police had allegations from 21 individuals, 17 of which were encapsulated in the misconduct in a public office charge.[38] AN‐A2 and Mr Johnson were consulted by Sussex Police about the potential guilty pleas. AN‐A2 was unhappy that his case would not be taken forward but accepted the decision.

412. Mr Johnson was very unhappy with the decision. He understood the rationale for why the pleas were being strongly considered, but he felt a lack of acknowledgement of the truth because his story would not be told to the court at sentencing. In addition, he would not be able to say how he felt about the offending and this felt like a denial of the impact that the offending had had upon him.[39] Prosecution counsel emphasised in open court, at the time of Peter Ball’s sentence, that the truth of those allegations was maintained by the prosecution.

413. DCI Hughes sympathised but thought a plea to the charge of misconduct in a public office gave justice to the majority of the complainants. He was also concerned about Peter Ball’s health, and the real risk that he would not be fit to be tried. The idea of Peter Ball publicly acknowledging guilt to the world was, for him, important. He therefore fully supported the difficult decision.[40]

414. Whilst the CPS considered the views of those two complainants, its decision had to be made on behalf of the wider public, not in the name of any individual complainant.[41] The CPS considered that the plea adequately reflected the criminality and the nature of Peter Ball’s offending against complainants who were children at the relevant time, and provided the judge with sufficient sentencing powers.

415. Although the CPS were the decision‐makers, Sussex Police played a critical role in the decisions about plea. The process was not a speedy one and Sussex Police were consulted throughout.[42]

416. Whilst the offences relating to children may have provided the court with higher sentencing powers, the court would have been required to apply the principle of ‘totality’, looking at the case as a whole and taking the offending in the round in order to select the appropriate sentence. Mr McGill did not think that even if there had been pleas to the other offences, the sentence would have been significantly higher.[43]

417. The resulting press coverage led to four further complainants coming forward. Their allegations included that Peter Ball had anointed the penis of a 17 or 18‐year‐old in his chapel, and had an erection whilst he sat a 16‐year‐old boy, who was confused about his sexuality and seeking advice, on his lap.[44] It was not considered by the police to be in the public interest for any further action to be taken in relation to three of those allegations, because Peter Ball had recently been imprisoned for 32 months.

418. However, there was one allegation from a child aged 17 that Peter Ball had touched his genitals after they had played squash together. This allegedly occurred in 1995, after Peter Ball had been cautioned and around the time that Archbishop Carey was preparing to return him to some form of ministry. In that case, because of the complainant’s age and the fact that it was post‐caution, Sussex Police determined it would be in the public interest to pursue an investigation. The complainant, however, did not wish to pursue the allegation because of the effect it might have had on him and his family, and because Peter Ball was imprisoned already.[45]

419. Following his conviction and sentencing, Peter Ball was prohibited from ministry for life by Archbishop Justin Welby as of 23 December 2015.[46]

Review by Dame Moira Gibb

420. On 5 October 2015, shortly after Peter Ball’s sentencing, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he was commissioning an independent review into the way that the Church of England had responded to the case of Peter Ball. In February 2016 he announced that the review would be chaired by Dame Moira Gibb. Archbishop Welby said:

“We have offered an unreserved apology to all the survivors and commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been. It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a bishop in the Church of England committed these offences. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades. I hope the review will provide the Church as a whole with an opportunity to learn lessons which will improve our safeguarding practice and policy.”[47]

421. Dame Moira Gibb described her purpose as: 

“to set out for the public, as well as for survivors and the church, a clear narrative of what had actually gone wrong and what Peter Ball had done and how the Church had responded to it. And from that to develop recommendations for the Church in order to avoid such failures in the future.”[48]

422. In June 2016, Dame Moira Gibb published her report An Abuse of Faith.[49] It contained 11 recommendations for the reform of the Church of England on a number of issues, including getting the right support in place for survivors, senior engagement with Peter Ball’s victims and their families, the need for leadership from bishops, strengthening the role of diocesan safeguarding to include all Church bodies, and giving Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers direct access to the Archbishops’ List.[50]

423. Following receipt of Dame Moira Gibb’s report, the Church of England prepared an action plan in relation to her recommendations. The report was considered by the House of Bishops in December 2017.[51] Mr Graham Tilby, National Safeguarding Adviser, has provided updates to the Inquiry about the work completed under this action plan. The Inquiry will consider this work in greater detail in the third public hearing for this investigation in July 2019.


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