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Ex-Bishop sex abuse case: Victims' lawyers say Church cannot police itself

Published 05/10/2015

Former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball has admitted abusing 18 young men from the 1970s to 1990s
Former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball has admitted abusing 18 young men from the 1970s to 1990s

Lawyers for abuse victims of an ex-bishop said the Church of England "should no longer be allowed to police itself" as a review was launched into how it responded to sex offence claims.

Former Bishop of Gloucester and Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball, 83, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey this week after admitting a string of offences against young men from the 1970s to 1990s.

Troubling questions have emerged over the Church's handling of the case, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to commission an independent report.

Claims against Ball surfaced in 1993 when he accepted a caution for one act of gross indecency, and he resigned from his post.

However, he was allowed to continue working for the church until 2010, despite several complaints being made against him.

It emerged in court that Ball and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey had been assured in 1993 that there would be no further action against Ball.

They both believed the matter was closed when Ball accepted the caution for gross indecency, despite police knowing about more complaints.

But in 2012, prompted by a Church of England review, Sussex Police reopened the case and last year charged him with a string of sex offences against teenage boys and young men.

Following his guilty pleas last month, the Church offered an "unreserved apology" to victims of Ball, who was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 to 1993.

The Bishop of Durham, Rt Rev Paul Butler, commended their "bravery", saying the Church had "provided full co-operation" with the police.

The Old Bailey heard Ball used religion as a "cloak" to groom his victims when they came to his home in Litlington, East Sussex.

David Greenwood, head of child abuse cases at Switalskis Solicitors, which is representing four of Ball's victims, said: "The church should no longer be allowed to police itself and the introduction of mandatory reporting is long overdue.

"I will be advising the Goddard inquiry to recommend the establishment of an independent body to accept and investigate allegations of abuse without meddling by the country's institutions."

The Church's review will examine its co-operation with the police and other professionals, and whether information was shared "in a timely manner".

A Church of England spokesman said: "Since Peter Ball's guilty plea questions have been raised about the Church's handling of this case.

"As a result the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has today commissioned an independent review of the way the Church responded.

"The independent review will examine the Church of England's co-operation with the police and other statutory agencies and the extent to which it shared information in a timely manner, identifying both good practice and shortcomings alike.

"It will also assess the extent to which the Church both properly assessed the possible risk that Bishop Ball might pose to others and responded adequately to concerns and representations submitted by survivors."

Between 1977 and 1992 Cambridge-educated Ball, who now lives in Langport, Somerset, misused his position in authority to "manipulate" 16 men for his own sexual gratification.

He also admitted indecently assaulting two men in their late teens between 1980 and 1983 and between 1990 and 1991.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

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