Jailed former bishop Peter Ball dies aged 87

Posted On 24 Jun 2019 at 10:08 am

The jailed former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball has died at the age of 87.

Bishop Peter Ball

Ball, who started his clerical career as a curate in Rottingdean was jailed in October 2015 for sexually abusing teenage boys and young men.

The former Church of England bishop abused 18 victims over 15 years and was convicted at the Central Criminal Court – better known as the Old Bailey – in London.

The judge Mr Justice Wilkie – Sir Alan Wilkie – said that Ball had done so much good and so much harm.

The Spearhead

He jailed Ball for 32 months for misconduct in public office and 15 months for indecent assault to run concurrently, making 32 months in total.

Ball, a former Lancing College pupil, was released from prison after 16 months in February 2017.

He served as the suffragan Bishop of Lewes from 1977 to 1992 when he became the diocesan Bishop of Gloucester.

He resigned in 1993 after receiving a caution for sexual assault but was spared court proceedings – apparently after the intervention of influential friends.

Ball, who spent his final years living in Langport in Somerset, continued to protest his innocence for a further 20 years.

In November 2012 Ball was arrested but only in September 2015 did he finally admit the charges of misconduct and sexual abuse.

Two of the most serious sexual abuse charges, relating to two teenage boys, were allowed to lay on the file, prompting further criticism.

One victim, Neil Todd, had alerted the church to Ball’s behaviour in 1992 but, brushed aside, he took his own life before Ball was brought to justice.

Even a critical report by Lady Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, one of the country’s most eminent judges, into the handling of sexual abuse cases by the Diocese of Chichester – the church’s Sussex region – omitted any reference to Peter Ball.

But one of Ball’s victims, Phil Johnson, who had become a safeguarding expert for the church, went public about having given evidence to Dame Elizabeth. (Her nephew Philip Havers is a barrister at One Crown Office Row which has chambers in Church Street, Brighton.)

The omission was one of the reasons why she was urged to step down having been appointed to chair the wide-ranging Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. She stood down in July 2014 less than a week after her appointment was announced.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss

Other high-profile figures were accused of helping Ball to cover up his crimes or evade justice. They included Prince Charles and the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.

A further review by former social worker Dame Moir Gibb, a respected senior public servant, criticised the church for “the prioritising of concern for the well-being and rehabilitation of Ball, as well as the reputation of the church, over concern and compassion for his victims, and indeed the future protection of others; inadequate internal investigation and the absence of formal action; a failure, for whatever reason, to pass full information to the police; and downplaying of the seriousness of what had occurred”.

She added: “Peter Ball betrayed his church and abused individual followers of that church. The church, at its most senior levels and over many years, supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims.”

A statement to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said: “The Church is sorry and ashamed (and) offered an unqualified apology to those vulnerable people, children and others, whose lives have been damaged by abuse and who were not cared for and protected by the church as they should have been.

“We repeat that apology, specifically to those who suffered abuse at the hands of Peter Ball and to families and others who have been affected by that abuse.”

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