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IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Anglican Church Case Studies: Chichester/Peter Ball Investigation Report

Executive Summary

This phase of the Anglican Church investigation has examined two case studies. The first was the Diocese of Chichester, where there have been multiple allegations of sexual abuse against children. The second concerned Peter Ball, who was a bishop in Chichester before becoming Bishop of Gloucester. In 1993, he was cautioned for gross indecency, and was convicted of further offences in 2015, including misconduct in public office and indecent assault.

The Church of England should have been a place which protected all children and supported victims and survivors. It failed to be so in its response to allegations against clergy and laity.

The Diocese of Chichester

The Diocese of Chichester covers East and West Sussex, with 506 churches and 365 parishes. There are 450 clergy and employed lay workers, as well as a significant number of retired clergy.

Over 50 years, 20 individuals with connections to Chichester Diocese have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to sexual offending against children. This figure is higher than in other large dioceses. For example, there were seven convictions in York, five in Birmingham and three in London over similar periods of time. Both case studies provided examples of perpetrators about whom there were allegations and, in one instance, a known conviction, but who were allowed unrestricted access to children and young people. In some cases, they continued to offend.

Some of the convicted perpetrators include:

Reverend Gordon Rideout

Reverend Gordon Rideout was ordained as a priest in 1962 and became an assistant curate in Sussex. He acted as chaplain to a nearby Barnardo’s Children’s Home, where he indecently assaulted a number of children. He then moved to an English army base where there were also allegations of indecent assault against three girls, for which he was acquitted. He later returned to Chichester. In 2013, Rideout was convicted of 36 offences of child sexual abuse involving 16 victims. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. No safeguarding file was ever opened on him by the Diocese, even though the historic allegations were known about. He was allowed permission to officiate, with no conditions attached, despite Bishop John Hind and Bishop Wallace Benn knowing about previous arrests.

Reverend Robert Coles

In 2012, Reverend Robert Coles pleaded guilty to 11 offences of child sexual abuse. This included seven counts of indecent assault and one count of buggery, which related to his time as a parish priest in Chichester. He was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. In 2015 he was convicted of two further counts of sexual assault on a male aged under 13 years. He had retired in 1997, but continued to take services without permission. A serious case review in 2015 found that he had sexually groomed a child in 2007–08 and had befriended the families of teenage boys. He took them out alone and gave them keys to his flat. This was known to some individuals in the Diocese, but no steps were taken to prevent him working with children.

Reverend Jonathan Graves

In 2017, after a second investigation by Sussex Police, Reverend Jonathan Graves was convicted of seven counts of indecent assault, two counts of indecency with a child and four counts of cruelty to a child. He was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment. Graves befriended teenage boys in his role as priest, and then engaged in sexual activity with them. This included sadism and masochism. He was warned by the safeguarding adviser in 2000 that he should not have under 18s in the house, but nothing was done to enforce this or follow up on suspicions about him within the parish.

Reverend Colin Pritchard

Reverend Colin Pritchard was a friend of another perpetrator, Reverend Roy Cotton. Both abused Mr Philip Johnson during his teenage years. Pritchard pleaded guilty in 2008 to seven counts of sexual assault against two boys in a parish in Northamptonshire. He was jailed for five years. In 2018, he was convicted of several counts of indecent assault and rape against a boy aged between 10 and 15, for which he received a sentence of 16 years’ imprisonment. The allegations were that he conspired with Cotton to commit these offences, which took place while he was vicar in a Chichester parish.

The Diocese

From the early 1990s until 2013 onwards, when the conclusions of the Visitation were implemented, there were inadequate safeguarding structures and policies in place within the Anglican Church and in Chichester Diocese. The responses to child sexual abuse were marked by secrecy, prevarication, avoidance of reporting alleged crimes to the authorities and a failure to take professional advice.

It was the opinion of Mr Colin Perkins, Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, that Coles represented “the worst case in the Diocese, the most serious case ... a diocesan bishop, an area bishop, an archdeacon and two safeguarding advisers knew that he had admitted some of the matters about which he had been questioned ... and none of them told the police”.[1]

Several internal reviews failed to expose the nature and scale of the problem of child sexual abuse within the Diocese. Instead, they were used by Church leaders to act out their personal conflicts and antagonisms. The reviews ultimately came to nothing until the Archbishop of Canterbury intervened by ordering a Visitation.

The 1997–98 Sussex Police investigation into Cotton and Pritchard, both later convicted, 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. The later investigations by Sussex Police, namely Operations Perry and Dunhill, were of a much higher quality. The police and the Diocese worked closely together during those investigations.

Peter Ball

In his 2015 guilty plea, Peter Ball admitted he had abused his position as Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester to offend against 17 teenagers and young men. That offending involved deliberately manipulating vulnerable teenagers and young men for his own sexual gratification and included naked praying, masturbation and flagellation. It was presented by Ball as following the teachings of St Francis. One witness described how Ball had repeatedly suggested they watched television together naked, as such ‘humiliation’ was part of the teachings of St Francis and would provide a more direct route to a closer relationship to God.

Many of Ball’s victims passed through the ‘Give a Year to God’ scheme, which Peter Ball had set up while he was Bishop of Lewes in the early 1980s. This scheme was not subject to any monitoring or supervision by the Diocese of Chichester or by anyone from the Church.

One such victim was Neil Todd, who was seriously failed by the Church and ultimately took his own life at the age of 38. In 1992, Ball’s housekeeper and her husband were so concerned about his treatment of Mr Todd that they reported it to a senior bishop working with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Nothing constructive was done, despite the likely abuse of power by Ball and Neil Todd’s undoubted vulnerability. The Church discounted Ball’s conduct as trivial and insignificant, displaying callous indifference to Neil Todd’s complaints.

Later, during the Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation of the matter, the Church expressed unwavering public support for Peter Ball and, following his caution, gave him extensive financial help. Neil Todd received limited counselling support, but no redress or practical assistance.

The Gloucestershire Constabulary investigation was thorough, but the force failed to share important information with the Church after Ball’s caution. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) advice to offer him a caution for one offence of gross indecency was wrong, and contrary to Home Office guidance at that time. Ball could properly have been charged with several other offences in 1992, at least one of which he subsequently pleaded guilty to in 2015.

Peter Ball’s charisma, charm and reputation enabled him to avoid a criminal conviction. He used his power and influence to groom individuals and manipulate the institutions of the Church. The Church’s response to his arrest in 1992 was to minimise his offending and later to return him to ministry with indecent haste, without any kind of basic assessment of risk to children.

On behalf of the Church, the Archbishops’ Council has accepted that it displayed “moral cowardice” in its response to the allegations against Peter Ball.[2]

An important aspect of the Peter Ball case study was the failure of leadership of Lord George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury. He equivocated throughout the responses to allegations about Ball, seeming frequently to do the wrong thing when there was a choice to be made. His ‘compassion’ whilst often accorded to Ball, did not extend to his victims. Examples of this were Archbishop Carey’s overt support for Ball’s innocence, despite having no justification for his position, and the Christmas letter he sent to parishioners, in which he wrote, “We hope and pray that the investigation will clear his name”.[3] Further, he wrote to the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire Constabulary during their investigation of Ball, to say that the allegations against him were “unrepresentative of his style”.[4] This statement was neither accurate nor appropriate.

Following Ball’s caution for gross indecency in 1992, Archbishop Carey could have decided to take disciplinary action against him. He did not. The only person with effective power to prevent Ball from returning to ministry, or to limit it, was Archbishop Carey. It was he who granted Peter Ball permission to officiate and he who publicly called for him to be treated “as any other retired bishop”.[5] Almost every aspect of his decision‐making regarding Peter Ball indicates poor judgement and a failure to recognise the appalling experiences of Ball’s victims.

Peter Ball seemed to relish contact with prominent and influential people. This included royalty and other titled individuals, and heads of well‐known public schools. He was frequently described as ‘charismatic’ and an outstanding preacher. Some of these people rushed to support him in the aftermath of his arrest. In the years that followed, they wrote to the police, the CPS and the Church in the belief that their opinion of Peter Ball’s character mattered, despite not knowing all of the facts or the allegations. Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Renton and Tim Rathbone MP all wrote in their support of Ball. Such people in public office should have taken greater care before using their positions of prominence to seek to influence the criminal justice system.

Peter Ball sought to use his relationship with His Royal Highness 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. The actions of 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, given the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church.

The response by the Church

The question remains why the Church’s responses to sexual abuse in Chichester, including the Peter Ball case, were so inadequate. They had devastating consequences for the children and young people who were affected.

There are some reasons already well known to this Inquiry from other investigations, principally concerning the prioritisation of reputation over the protection of children. There was a deep‐seated arrogance amongst some senior clergy, including Bishop Wallace Benn. They believed that they were right in their indulgent attitude towards some perpetrators, even when they had been convicted. In Bishop Benn’s case, his failings were compounded by his litigious approach to perceived criticism.

What marks out faith organisations such as the Anglican Church in this context is their explicit moral purpose, in teaching right from wrong. In Chichester, its neglect of the physical and spiritual well‐being of children and young people was in conflict with the Church’s mission of love and care.

Another failing in the Church was its ‘clericalism’ and ‘tribalism’, which made the present Archbishop of Canterbury so deeply ashamed. Both contributed to an approach to ministry in the Diocese which led to an abuse of power.

In this context, we use clericalism to describe Church structures in which control is largely or entirely vested in the clergy. The consequence of this is the absence of accountability, and the creation of a climate in which clergy may consider themselves superior to laity.

Tribalism is based on the impulse to protect a particular group, belief or way of thinking, regardless of individual responsibility or culpability. In Chichester, this manifested itself in opposing factions. Rivalry between the two groups was in itself destructive, and within each group there was misplaced loyalty to its adherents. In the public hearings, this was acted out by several senior clergy squabbling about responsibility for failing to deal with past sexual abuse. The damaging consequence of this overriding allegiance to one’s own ‘tribe’ was that child protection was compromised.

The Church has issued an unconditional apology to victims and survivors for their suffering. For many people, however, that apology was unconvincing. One female victim, who was abused by Gordon Rideout from the age of 10, received an apology from the Bishop of Chichester in 2013. This was some 40 years after she had been abused. Victims who have been in touch with the Inquiry have described the lifelong consequences of their abuse, as well as their loss of religious faith. Others were unable to cope with their experiences and ended their lives.

The Archbishops’ Council has characterised the Church’s treatment of complainants, victims and survivors as “shocking, even callous”.[6] The Church has now acknowledged its errors and recognised that it must take responsibility for the pain suffered by victims and survivors.

We noted the improvements which have occurred in Chichester since 2012, and the commitment of resources by the Church to facilitate these changes. The Diocese has also benefited from the firm leadership of Bishop Martin Warner. We will use the wider Anglican Church public hearings to explore the further steps that should be taken, as well as examining specific issues such as Church structures, disciplinary processes and cultural change.

We make several recommendations which arise directly from the case studies of the Diocese of Chichester and the response to allegations against Peter Ball. These include improving child protection in religious communities affiliated to the Church, criminalising sexual activity between clergy and a person of 16–18 over whom they have spiritual authority, and stronger compliance with the requirement of volunteers and ordained clergy to undergo disclosure and barring checks.

We will make further recommendations directly related to the findings of this report following the hearing in July 2019, which will focus upon the wider Anglican Church.

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