Abuse by former Bishop of Lewes covered up by Church and police, inquiry hears

Bishop Peter Ball was jailed for sexual offences. Picture: SWNS
Bishop Peter Ball was jailed for sexual offences. Picture: SWNS

A former Bishop of Lewes jailed for sexual abuse benefited from a ‘cover up’ by the Church and police, an inquiry heard today.

Bishop Peter Ball was jailed for 32 months in 2015 for offending against a string of young men.

Senior counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding

Senior counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding

How he was able to escape justice for so long is being examined by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), which resumed today.

Senior counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding QC said: “This inquiry has been provided with the details of allegations made by 32 individuals.

“These all relate to an alleged abuse of power by Peter Ball for the purposes of his sexual gratification.”

The inquiry is looking into how far institutions failed to protect children from sexual abuse within the Anglican Church.

Peter Ball was able to call upon the willing assistance of members of that establishment.

William Chapman, representing survivors

It focuses on abuse within the Diocese of Chichester, which covers all of Sussex, as a case study.

READ MORE: How former bishop Wallace Benn failed to report paedophile priests

Ms Scolding told the inquiry how Ball’s arrest in 1992 came as a shock to the Church.

She said: “A very senior clergyman with enormous spiritual authority, he also had power and charisma.

The inquiry is being held in London

The inquiry is being held in London

“Peter Ball’s power was further enhanced by his cultivation of influential friends.”

READ MORE: Chichester bishop: Church failed abused children but has improved

The inquiry heard how Ball spoke of four cabinet ministers who offered him a ‘bolthole’ from the press following his arrest.

Ms Scolding said many of Ball’s friends considered his prosecution in 2015 was ‘cruel and unnecessary as there was a very elderly man at no risk of reoffending who had already become a pariah within the Church of England’.

Inquiry chairman Professor Alexis Jay and other members of her panel

Inquiry chairman Professor Alexis Jay and other members of her panel

But she added: “Conversely to many people the actions of the Church and police smack of a cover up.”

Bishop Ball was cautioned in 1993 for offending, and resigned his position as bishop.

However Ms Scolding told the inquiry: “During the time between 2001 and 2009 the Church was aware of more than one occasion that Peter Ball was carrying out confirmations in schools or preaching in them and no action was taken to either stop him or to contact the schools in question.”

Representing survivors of Ball’s abuse, William Chapman said: “The story of Peter Ball is the story of the establishment.

“Peter Ball was able to call upon the willing assistance of members of that establishment.

“They provided Peter Ball with money and accommodation, legal advice, a private investigator, references, [and] approaches to the police and prosecuting authorities.

“These establishment helpers claim they were duped by Peter Ball, but you will have to consider whether it was credible – given what they must have known or could easily have found out about Peter Ball – whether they were really as ignorant as they claim they were about the nature of Peter Ball’s activities.”

He later added that the inquiry will hear how Ball benefitted from a ‘cover up’.

Also representing victims of Ball, Richard Scorer said: “In the Church of England Peter Ball found the perfect cover for this offending.

“We cannot allow a situation in this country where high profile sex offenders can evade justice because of who they know.”

Speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Chichester and Archbishops’ Council for the Church of England, Nigel Giffin QC reiterated the Church’s apology issued in March.

He added that many lessons from the inquiry were already being put into practice and the Church would continue to follow the evidence in case more can be learned.

An interim report from the inquiry looking at sexual abuse in the Diocese of Chichester will be released following the Peter Ball inquiry.

For confidential support and guidance on issues relating to sexual abuse, contact The Truth Project.

For details visit www.truthproject.org.uk or call 0800 917 1000.