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IICSA published its final Report in October 2022. This website was last updated in January 2023.

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report


The Church of England should have been a place which cared for and supported victims of child sexual abuse. The investigations into the Diocese of Chichester and the events surrounding Peter Ball revealed a number of serious failings in its response to allegations against both clergy and laity alike. From the early 1990s there were inadequate safeguarding structures and policies in place at a national level and, as a result, at a diocesan level.[1]

Each case study provided examples of perpetrators who were able to hide in plain sight for many years. In the Diocese of Chichester, there were perpetrators about whom there were allegations, or even known convictions, who were provided with unrestricted access to children and young people and as a result, continued to offend.

There were occasions when the Church put its own reputation above the needs of victims and survivors.[2] It did not always treat victims and survivors with the compassion or dignity they deserved. The Church acknowledged that “it failed some victims because it allowed its response to civil claims to become unduly defensive, and dominated by the approach and language of litigation”.[3]

Disclosures of abuse were handled inadequately, both at a diocesan level in Chichester and by Lambeth Palace in the case of Peter Ball. Responses did not display an appropriate level of urgency or an appreciation of the seriousness of allegations made. In particular, there was also a failure to appreciate the significance of allegations of non‐recent sexual abuse, either because they did not understand the continuing harm suffered by some victims and survivors or because they thought that the passage of time had erased the risk posed by the offender.

In allegations involving victims and survivors over the age of 16, a number of individuals in the Diocese of Chichester and Lambeth Palace misinterpreted the actions of abusers as homosexual behaviour. In such cases, there was an unwillingness to challenge that behaviour or to recognise that the abuse may not be about sex alone, but the exercise of control.

The Church has now offered unreserved apologies to victims of child sexual abuse. It has acknowledged its errors and recognised that it must take responsibility for the pain suffered by victims and survivors. However, apologies are not sufficient in themselves. As stated by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby:

“Apologies are fine, but we have got to find a way of making it different and we have got to do it as quickly as we can.”[4]

Conclusions in respect of the Diocese of Chichester

1. The Diocese of Chichester has seen more convictions for child sexual abuse than any other diocese in the Church of England. By 1997, it should have been fully aware of the need to respond appropriately to allegations of this nature. It had recently appointed its first diocesan child protection adviser, safeguarding guidance was in place at both a national and diocesan level, and no fewer than three clergy members (Reverends Coles, Cotton and Pritchard) had been arrested in the space of one year. Yet it was not until 2011, with the commencement of Operation Perry, that the Diocese proved itself willing and able to take the necessary action.

2. The Diocese was divided on a number of issues. In responding to allegations of child sexual abuse, members of clergy acted primarily out of loyalty to those with whom they enjoyed a shared viewpoint, and contrary to their safeguarding obligations. The damaging consequence of this overriding allegiance to one’s own ‘tribe’ was that child protection was compromised.[5]

3. There were a number of occasions on which allegations that ought to have been reported immediately to external authorities were retained internally for as long as possible. The Church not only declined to share serious allegations with the relevant statutory agencies, but in at least one case no steps were taken to report known sexual abuse to the police by senior clergy.[6] The absence of co‐operation hindered the progress of criminal investigations and safeguarding arrangements and enabled abusers to escape justice.

4. Insufficient weight was placed by the Diocese on the need to act upon applicants’ backgrounds. Cotton was ordained in the 1960s (in the Diocese of Portsmouth) despite having a conviction for indecently exposing himself to a child. This conviction was known upon his transfer to the Diocese of Chichester, but no steps were taken to ensure he did not continue to pose a risk to children.

5. Until the appointment of Bishop Martin Warner in 2012, there was an absence of strong leadership within the Diocese of Chichester and little unity of approach.[7] Disciplinary procedures were not followed and inadequate resources were devoted to protecting the children who passed through its doors every year. Senior clergy were not required to undertake safeguarding training before the appointment of Archbishop Justin Welby[8] and, in many cases, had not received any safeguarding training at all during their time in office.

Victim support and reparations

6. Victims and survivors in the Diocese of Chichester were disbelieved and dismissed by those in authority within the Diocese.[9] On occasion, they were stigmatised because there was a perception that they were from “problem backgrounds” and therefore less credible in the eyes of the Diocese.[10]

7. In contrast, during his trial Terence Banks was accompanied to court by a member of clergy on a daily basis. Meanwhile, his victims were not provided with any support by the Diocese.[11]

Permission to officiate

8. The system for granting permission to officiate (PTO) did not have sufficient regard to safeguarding. Reverend Roy Cotton was granted PTO when it was known that he had recently been investigated by the police for child sexual abuse. Reverend Gordon Rideout was granted PTO despite Bishop Wallace Benn and Bishop John Hind having been aware that he had been investigated by three separate police forces for child sexual abuse. Reverend Jonathan Graves was granted PTO during the course of a police investigation for child sexual abuse.

9. Members of clergy with PTO were not supervised or monitored, and many were not the subject of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks as recently as 2010. Even before those checks became compulsory, the Church should have ensured that all clergy with access to children had been appropriately vetted.

10. When a routine check highlighted worrying information about Reverend Vickery House, the response of the Diocese was unacceptable. Bishop Benn asked for the information to be withheld from the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor. Whilst Bishop Hind insisted that the information be passed to the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor, he did not immediately accept the advice of the Diocesan Safeguarding Advisory Group that House should be suspended.

Disciplinary action

11. Clergy about whom concerns were voiced were not subjected to either disciplinary action or risk assessment in a consistent manner. The Archbishops’ Council have accepted that the previous Clergy Discipline Measure was not fit for purpose in relation to safeguarding; nor was its predecessor, the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure. The disciplinary processes under both measures were lengthy and cumbersome.

12. Even in its amended form, the Clergy Discipline Measure remains flawed and is an inappropriate means by which to address safeguarding concerns. It does not provide an adequate route to resolving safeguarding complaints timeously and fairly.

Relationship between the Diocese and the police

13. The 1997–1998 Sussex Police investigation into Cotton and Pritchard was inadequate. There was unnecessary delay and a failure to explore all lines of enquiry. As a consequence, no charges were brought and both offenders escaped justice at that time.

14. Cotton’s diocesan file (blue file) clearly contained the fact of his earlier conviction for indecent exposure, but this was not brought to the attention of the police. At the conclusion of their investigation, the police failed to share any written findings with the Diocese. As a result, no Church disciplinary action was taken against either suspect, nor was it possible to initiate contact with the complainants to offer them support.

15. When Northamptonshire Police revived the investigation in 2006, all records held by Sussex Police had already been destroyed in accordance with their policies at the time. As a result, the relevant evidence could no longer be accessed.

16. The quality of the investigation in Operations Perry and Dunhill by Sussex Police was better. The police and the Diocese worked closely together to ensure that victims were treated with compassion and respect. The use of an Independent Domestic and Sexual Violence Adviser (IDSVA) worked well in assisting victims and survivors.

The Cathedral

17. In 2004, an independent review by Edina Carmi identified that the relationship between Chichester Cathedral and the Diocese had hindered the effectiveness of safeguarding practices. The Cathedral managed child protection issues independently of the Diocese, and was not required to comply with the diocesan arrangements for safeguarding. It did not, however, put in place any adequate safeguarding procedures for the Cathedral. Nor was there a productive partnership between the Diocese and the Cathedral that prioritised the welfare of children and young people. Only now, 18 years after the completion of the review, are there external audits of safeguarding within cathedrals.

18. The Carmi review explored the interrelationship between Chichester Cathedral and The Prebendal School. It concluded that the nature of the relationship between the two discouraged an appropriate level of independence. This led to an inability to challenge concerning behaviour within each other’s domain. The school’s response to allegations was at times compromised by its deference to the Cathedral. The Diocese or the school should have shared its findings with the Department for Education and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Internal reviews

19. The Diocese of Chichester’s Past Cases Review in 2008–2009 did not unearth the full scale of the abuse that was taking place inside its doors. It failed to take into account the actions of all volunteers and retired clerics. Despite the limitations of this review, the issues that it did raise should have been considered and dealt with by the Diocese at the time. This would at least have served to reduce the risks to children and young people.

20. The relationship between Bishop John Hind and Bishop Wallace Benn collapsed during this key period. Their personal conflict distracted the Diocese of Chichester from more pressing matters, particularly the need to address the findings of Mr Meekings and Lady Butler‐Sloss. Numerous meetings and discussions took place but seemed to focus on internal squabbles between senior clerics, rather than on the welfare of victims of child sexual abuse. Indeed, the acrimonious nature of their relationship remained evident some six years later during the course of the hearing.

21. Bishop Benn failed to recognise that his actions contributed to a paralysis in the Diocese. He lay the blame for his own failings on others, including junior members of staff. Archdeacon Nicholas Reade adopted a similarly defensive approach when confronted with evidence of Bishop Benn’s approach. Archdeacon Reade declined to report a serious indecent assault to the police, yet repeatedly sought to justify this failure on the basis that “he had not raped the boy”.[12] Coles should have been reported to the police and subject to disciplinary action or a risk assessment.

22. All senior clergy and senior office holders in the Diocese should have taken collective responsibility for the series of errors that were made, whilst acknowledging the effect of their individual omissions on victims and survivors.

Conclusions in respect of the Peter Ball case study

Peter Ball’s offending

23. In his 2015 guilty plea, Peter Ball admitted that he had abused his position as Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester to offend against 17 teenagers and young men, from 1977 to 1992. His offending involved deliberately manipulating vulnerable teenagers and young men for his own sexual gratification.

24. Peter Ball, having developed a reputation for working with children and young people, took advantage of the invitations he received to preach at or provide counselling in schools.

25. Many of Peter Ball’s victims and survivors passed through the ‘Give a Year to God’ scheme, which Peter Ball set up whilst he was Bishop of Lewes in the early 1980s. This scheme was not subject to any monitoring or supervision by the Diocese or by anyone from the Church. Peter Ball used this scheme to offend against often vulnerable young men under the guise of those acts forming part of religious teachings.

26. Peter Ball also admitted that, whilst Prior of the Community of the Glorious Ascension, he took advantage of a vulnerable young man who looked upon him as a spiritual leader. We heard that religious communities at that time were the subject of very little oversight by anyone from a diocese or any other part of the Church from 1957 to 1992.

The treatment of complainants, victims and survivors

27. The Archbishops’ Council has characterised the Church’s treatment of complainants, victims and survivors as “shocking and even callous”.[13] Archbishop George Carey has accepted that they were not treated with “belief and compassion” by him as well as others within the Church.[14]

28. The Church of England seriously failed Neil Todd. It chose not to act when, out of concern for Mr Todd, Peter Ball’s domestic staff reported their concerns about Peter Ball and Mr Todd to a senior bishop working with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It chose not to respond when their account was repeated to a number of other bishops. It failed to do anything at all until Mr Todd tried to take his own life, at which time the matter was finally reported to the police.[15]

29. Despite Peter Ball’s abuse of power and Mr Todd’s obvious vulnerability, the Church discounted Peter Ball’s conduct as trivial and insignificant. In the days following Mr Todd’s initial disclosures and following Peter Ball’s arrest, Lambeth Palace focussed on controlling what information was disclosed, either to protect the Church’s reputation or to protect Peter Ball. Those involved at best displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of Peter Ball’s behaviour and at worst, were indifferent to Mr Todd’s complaints.[16]

30. Throughout the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation, the Church expressed unwavering public support for Peter Ball. In contrast, little was said or done in support of Mr Todd. Even after Peter Ball’s caution and resignation the Church, both privately and publicly, failed to recognise or acknowledge the seriousness of Peter Ball’s misconduct and the long‐ term harm that it had caused to complainants, victims and survivors.[17]

31. Privately, whilst some limited counselling support was offered to Mr Todd, no support or redress was offered, on behalf of the Church, to other complainants who came forward during the course of the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation. This is in contrast to the extensive support provided to Peter Ball, and the subsequent financial support he received via the Church Commissioners and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s discretionary fund. The Archbishops’ Council has admitted that it “was not acceptable” for Peter Ball to have received such significant payments in these circumstances.[18]

32. It was a conflict of interest for Lambeth Palace, and Archbishop George Carey in particular, to provide personal and vocal support to Peter Ball. As the Archbishop of Canterbury, he would be responsible for deciding whether Peter Ball would be subject to disciplinary action or returned to ministry.[19]

The conduct of the Church during the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation

33. During the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation, Lambeth Palace received seven letters capable of supporting the allegations made by Mr Todd. Some of those letters included allegations about Peter Ball’s sexualised conduct towards teenagers who had met Peter Ball at their schools. Of those seven letters, Lambeth Palace passed only the single least incriminating letter to the police. This suggests that the remaining six letters were withheld. There is no excuse for this failure to provide potentially relevant evidence to the police.[20]

34. The Archbishops’ Council has accepted that the Church, both at Lambeth Palace and through senior members of clergy, took an active role in Peter Ball’s defence. Their actions went beyond ensuring he had access to legal representation, including partially funding that representation. Individuals at Lambeth Palace, and Bishop Eric Kemp in Chichester, communicated with Reverend Brian Tyler about the course of his enquiries on Peter Ball’s behalf which sought expressly to discredit the complainants against Peter Ball.[21]

35. In addition, Bishop Michael Ball sought to interfere with potential witnesses. He telephoned potential complainants to dissuade them from making any accusations against his brother. Whilst sympathy for his brother was understandable, it was improper for a bishop to exert such pressure.

36. Archbishop Carey should not have written to the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary on behalf of Peter Ball to say that the allegations were “unrepresentative of his style”. This was not, in light of the information available to him, accurate. In addition, the Archbishops’ Council characterised this as “lobbying” in Peter Ball’s favour, which was inappropriate for a representative of the Church.[22]

The Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation

37. The 1992 Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation was thorough and comprehensive. This Inquiry has not identified any actual or apparent bias on the part of the police towards Peter Ball.

38. Following Peter Ball’s caution, however, Gloucestershire Constabulary failed to share important information with the Church. This information could have enabled the Church to reach an informed view on the seriousness of his offending and on the risk he posed. Instead, Gloucestershire Constabulary appeared keen to simply put the matter behind it and take no further action.

39. The CPS advice that Peter Ball should be offered a caution for one offence of gross indecency was wrong. It was contrary to Home Office guidance in place at that time. The CPS also failed to correctly apply, or even adequately consider, the potential criminal offences arising from allegations that Peter Ball had beaten and injured a number of young men. Peter Ball could properly have been charged with several other offences in 1992. In particular, Peter Ball could have been charged with offences relating to the allegations by AN‐A117 in 1992, a charge which he subsequently pleaded guilty to in 2015.

40. Between 2012 and 2015, both the CPS and Sussex Police demonstrated much greater ingenuity in their effort to identify charges which captured the criminality of Peter Ball’s acts. These efforts enabled them to bring a successful prosecution.

The Church’s response to Peter Ball’s 1992 caution

41. Following Peter Ball’s caution, Archbishop Carey promised that an investigation would be carried out on his behalf. However, no meaningful or thorough investigation occurred into the ten allegations that had, by that time, come to the attention of the Church. The investigation should, at least, have involved meeting with the complainants. In addition, the allegations received and the behaviour admitted by Peter Ball should have been closely scrutinised so that an informed view could be reached about whether any disciplinary action should be taken, and about whether or not Peter Ball posed any further risk to teenagers or young men.

42. To the extent to which there was an investigation, it focused unduly on the potential for complainants to take their concerns to the press or to create difficulties for Peter Ball or his return to ministry.

43. The Church could have taken disciplinary action against Peter Ball following his 1992 caution. That power, and that decision, lay with Archbishop Carey but no such action was taken and no adequate explanation has been provided.

44. In addition, Peter Ball’s name could and should have been included on the caution list (the record of individuals who have been disciplined or about whom there are concerns about their behaviour). When he subsequently sought a return to ministry, it would have alerted bishops to the fact that there had been concerns about his past behaviour, and therefore that they should think carefully before permitting him to officiate, in particular to officiate in schools.

Peter Ball’s return to ministry

45. No acceptable explanation has been given as to why Peter Ball was returned to ministry either at all or “within a disconcertingly short space of time”[23] after his resignation. He showed neither remorse nor insight into his behaviour.

46. The Archbishops’ Council has accepted that the predominant concern of the Church was to return Peter Ball to ministry in a way which would not damage the reputation of the Church, rather than considering whether he should return to ministry, or could do so safely.[24]

47. The Church failed to undertake sufficient or adequate risk assessments in respect of Peter Ball, formal or otherwise. As a result, Peter Ball was permitted to exercise ministry without any effective oversight and to “go into schools cloaked with the respectability and authority of the Church”.[25] This was despite allegations received about his conduct on school premises.

48. The Church failed to take any steps to limit Peter Ball’s ministry. The only person with effective power to do so was Archbishop Carey. It was he who granted Peter Ball permission to officiate and he who publicly endorsed Peter Ball to be treated as any other retired bishop.

49. The response of Archbishop Carey, from the time that the allegations emerged and throughout the period covered in this case study, was weak. He failed to have sufficient regard for the wellbeing of complainants, victims and survivors affected by Peter Ball’s behaviour. He was undoubtedly faced with difficult decisions by virtue of Peter Ball’s position, by Peter Ball’s own manipulative behaviour, and by the support of Bishop Michael Ball and other vocal individuals. It was nonetheless Archbishop Carey’s responsibility to display strong leadership and to act decisively. He did neither.

50. On behalf of the Church, the Archbishops’ Council has accepted that the institutional response to the allegations against Peter Ball displayed “moral cowardice”.[26]

Support for Peter Ball

51. Several highly prominent individuals rushed to support Peter Ball in the aftermath of his arrest. In the years that followed, they wrote to the police, the CPS and the Church. They sought to clear his name and return him to ministry. They did so despite not knowing all of the facts or all of the allegations. They did so in the belief that their opinion of Peter Ball’s character mattered and in the hope that their reference would carry weight.

52. Those in positions of prominence, particularly those in a public office, should exercise great care before using their position, especially when they are not in possession of all of the relevant information. It was foolish of Lord Lloyd of Berwick to write to a police officer involved in Peter Ball’s investigation. The same criticism can be made of Lord Renton and Tim Rathbone MP, who wrote on House of Lords and House of Commons paper respectively in support of Peter Ball.

53. Peter Ball sought to use his relationship with the Prince of Wales to further his campaign to return to unrestricted ministry. The Prince of Wales informed the Inquiry he was not aware of the significance or impact of the caution that Peter Ball had accepted, and was not sure that he was even told that Peter Ball had been cautioned at the time. During the period of that campaign, the Prince of Wales, and his private secretary, spoke about Peter Ball with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of Lambeth Palace staff. In addition, the Duchy of Cornwall purchased a property specifically to rent to Peter Ball and his brother.

54. The actions of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales were misguided. His actions, and those of his staff, could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, as a result of the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church of England.

Matters to be explored in the wider Anglican Church hearing

55. During the course of the first two public hearings we have heard evidence of the steps taken by the Church of England to improve its safeguarding practices and procedures. We are also aware from the National Safeguarding Panel’s report to General Synod in July 2018 that the Church continues to undertake work based upon the evidence heard so far.

56. During the third public hearing scheduled for July 2019, the Inquiry will return to a number of issues which emerged in the Diocese of Chichester and Peter Ball case studies. We will gather evidence about how these issues are being addressed within the wider Anglican Church. They will include:

a. The cultural attitudes towards safeguarding and whether safeguarding has been embedded within its structures.

b. The procedures for reporting abuse within the Church and steps taken to remove barriers to reporting.

c. The challenges posed by responding to allegations of abuse made about deceased members of clergy and the work undertaken by the Church following the Carlile review.

d. How the Church manages concerns about the capability of staff and clergy to fulfil their safeguarding responsibilities.

e. The extent to which the Church’s disciplinary processes are suitable for responding to concerns relating to safeguarding.

f. The system in place for providing counselling, support and/or redress for complainants, victims and survivors.

g. The current diocesan and national structures (including the role of the National Safeguarding Panel), and whether they aid or inhibit the Church’s response to child sexual abuse. This will involve considering the developments in respect of safeguarding within cathedrals.

h. How the Church monitors the standard of safeguarding services within dioceses, including how effective the current system of auditing has been. This will include considering what steps the Church is taking to identify current patterns of safeguarding difficulty and what data collection exists on a diocesan and national level.

i. What action the Church can take or should take to intervene within a diocese to keep children safe where standards are not being met.

j. The funding of safeguarding both nationally and at the diocesan level.

k. Whether someone’s understanding of and ability to respond effectively to safeguarding concerns can or should be assessed as part of their fitness for office or included in ecclesiastical training, including the newly introduced national training resources and system.

l. The extent to which the system for granting permission to officiate for retired clergy has been reformed and the Church’s ability to supervise retired clergy.

m. The results of the working group set up by the Church of England into the seal of the confessional.

n. The adequacy of the Church’s record‐keeping and whether there is a need for a centralised system accessible to those who work on safeguarding within the Church.

o. The current system for vetting and barring checks, including the difficulty in deciding what is a regulated activity.

p. How civil claims work and the role of insurers. We will need to consider whether or not the system can be improved for victims and survivors, and what redress should look like in these contexts.

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