The Bishop Peter Ball Case and the Call for a New Offence of Failing to Report Child Abuse
Crime and Parliamentary Affairs Correspondent TIM HICKS comments on the recent revelations concerning retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey (pictured above).
The George Carey and Peter Ball cases
As a practising Christian, I read with great sadness that the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey now retired has been asked to stand down as an Assistant Bishop of the Church of England, because he withheld evidence of sexual offences committed by disgraced Bishop and convicted paedophile Peter Ball from the police.
Briefly, Peter Ball, the Bishop of Lewes and later of Gloucester was a sexual predator who used his position as a member of the clergy to abuse youths. He resigned as a Bishop in 1993 after admitting to an act of gross indecency and accepting a police caution. In 1993, the CPS assessed that Ball had committed other sexual offences, but the Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to prosecute Ball. After his resignation, Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury allowed Ball to continue officiating as a priest. He also continued to minister at schools. Ball was subsequently sentenced to 32 months’ imprisonment for misconduct in public office and indecent assault in October 2015 for the abuse of 18 young men aged between 17 and 25. At the time it was alleged there had been an attempt at a cover up by the Church of England. Very sadly one of Ball’s victims, killed himself in 2012 as a result of the abuse he suffered from Ball.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby commissioned an independent review by Dame Moira Gibb in February 2016 to investigate the systemic failure of the Church of England to deal effectively with Ball.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Dame Gibbs report “An Abuse of Faith” is here. The review found that Carey received seven letters making allegations about Ball following his arrest, but withheld six of them from the police. Incredibly, he did not put Ball on the Church of England’s “Lambeth List” of clergy who have had questions raised over their suitability for ministry. A Church of England statement on the independent review is here. I have read her report and it makes damning reading. To give a flavour of the findings:
“This report considers the serious sexual wrongdoing of Peter Ball, a bishop of the Church of England who abused many boys and men over a period of twenty years or more. That is shocking in itself, but it is compounded by the failure of the Church to respond appropriately to his misconduct, again over a period of many years. Ball’s priority was to protect and promote himself, and he maligned the abused. The Church colluded with that rather than seeking to help those he had harmed, or assuring itself of the safety of others.”
Bishop Peter Ball. Serial sexual abuser of young men; protected by the Archbishop of Canterbury
The Past Response of the Church of England to Allegations of Child Abuse
I think the past response of the Church of England has been a disgrace and indefensible, as set out in this Guardian article:
“The first independent review commissioned by the church into its handling of a sex abuse case highlights the “deeply disturbing” failure of those in senior positions to record or take action on the survivor’s disclosures over a period of almost four decades.“ The case of Lord George Carey and his response to the allegations against Peter Ball is symptomatic of this attitude, which allowed a known sexual predator to escape detection or punishment, whilst still officiating as a member of the clergy and still offending.”
Since that time, the Church of England has reformed (BBC Report here) and new policies were introduced to ensure that allegations of abuse were investigated:
“It is the policy of the Church to ensure that all allegations of abuse are referred immediately to the Police and Local Authority Social Services departments (statutory authorities). We do this in the interests of the vulnerable. To make sure that all information available is shared with those with the legal and professional responsibilities to investigate. In cases where the statutory authorities decide that they will not, or cannot investigate, but concerns remain about the safety of children or adults at risk of abuse or neglect, enquiries will be made by those with responsibility for safeguarding within the Church.”
“All concerns and allegations are taken seriously by the Church, regardless to whom they relate to. The precise circumstances differ from case to case, but the following information gives an indication of what happens when an allegation is made:
- Information about the alleged abuse is shared with the Police and Local Authority Social Services as they have a statutory responsibility to investigate.
- After consultation with the Police and Local Authority Social Services, if the person accused of abuse is a member of the clergy, or is a paid worker or a volunteer, that person will, where possible, be suspended from the role that brings them into contact with children, young people and adults at risk of abuse or neglect. It is important to acknowledge that these are neutral actions. They are precaution