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Independent inquiry launched after bishop’s sex abuse conviction

Independent inquiry launched after bishop’s sex abuse conviction

Retired Church of England bishop Peter Ball pleaded guilty in Sussex Crown Court last month to a series of sexual offences against young men. Even before his conviction, deep disquiet was voiced regarding the Church’s handling of Ball’s case. The BBC reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury has now commissioned an independent review of the case.

The Church said the review – which will be published next year – will examine its co-operation with the police and the extent to which it shared information….

…A lawyer representing four of Ball’s victims said the Church “should no longer be allowed to police itself”.

After last month’s plea, the Guardian published a story detailing how some of the earlier allegations against Ball had been handled.

Details of how Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, escaped justice 22 years ago can finally be revealed after he pleaded guilty on Tuesday to two counts of indecent assault and one charge of misconduct in public office, relating to the sexual abuse of 16 young men over a period of 15 years from 1977 to 1992.

Ball was not charged when the allegations of abuse against him first emerged in 1993. Instead the police and senior figures in the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS), then led by the late Barbara Mills, agreed to issue Ball with a caution.

This was done with the knowledge of the then archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Ball proceeded to resign as bishop and went to live in a property lent to him by his friend the Prince of Wales.

Both Archbishop Carey and Peter Ball told the court that their understanding of the caution was that it covered all offences, known or unknown, up to that date. The CPS denies any implied immunity.

“I was worried that if any other allegations were made it would reignite a police investigation,” Carey said in his statement. “I was told quite categorically that any past indecency matters would not be taken further.”

After Ball resigned, he continued to work in the church, according to the Guardian, until 2010. His name came up repeatedly in police investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by priests, and in official inquiries into failures to safeguard children in the Diocese of Chichester, where he had served as Bishop of Lewes. He was arrested in 2012 after a retired police officer working for Archbishop Rowan Williams found files relating to abuses by Ball and passed them to Sussex police, asking them to reopen their investigation.

The Church of England last month offered an “unreserved apology”

to all the survivors and those affected by this news. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

Announcing the inquiry yesterday, the Communications Office stated,

The independent review will examine the Church of England’s cooperation 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.

Ball, who is 83, will be sentenced tomorrow.

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