A POLICE investigation into
allegations of child abuse, dating from more than 20 years ago in
Chichester diocese, has led to the arrest of the Rt Revd Peter Ball
CGA, a former Bishop of Gloucester and Suffragan Bishop of Lewes,
on Tuesday. He was later released.
Bishop Ball, aged 80, who founded the
monastic Community of the Glorious Ascension (CGA), was arrested on
Tuesday morning at his home in Somerset, "on suspicion of eight
sexual offences in East Sussex and in one case elsewhere, during
the late 1980s and early 1990s", Sussex Police said. He was
released on Tuesday afternoon, "on medical advice", and would be
interviewed "at a later date".
The offences "were allegedly committed
against eight boys and young men, all of whom were at the time in
their late teens or early 20s, except one who was 12".
Bishop Ball resigned as Bishop of
Gloucester in 1993, after less than a year in office, after being
formally cautioned by Gloucester Police for "one offence of gross
indecency, contrary to the Sexual Offences Act of 1956" (News, 12
March 1993). The offence involved a 17-year-old novice from what
was described as "an embryo order". No charges were brought, but a
formal caution implies an admission of guilt.
The alleged offences for which Bishop
Ball was arrested this week would have taken place while he was
Bishop of Lewes, an appointment he held from 1984 to 1992.
Sussex Police said that it began an
investigation in May, after Lambeth Palace passed it "two reports
from a Church of England safeguarding consultant, which contain
reviews of Church files relating to the safeguarding of young
people in Chichester diocese during the 1980s and early 1990s".
Detectives had also obtained the files themselves.
The investigation had brought to light
"allegations not previously reported"; however, "no allegations of
recent or current offending" had been made, meaning that there was
"nothing to suggest that any young people are currently at risk",
Sussex Police said.
Chichester diocese - which was
criticised by the Archbishops' commissaries for its
child-safeguarding policies (
News, 24 August) - was "co-operating fully with the police",
Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes, who is leading the
investigation, said. "Allegations of historic offences are treated
just as seriously as any more recent offences."
The investigation also led to the
arrest on Tuesday of a 67-year-old retired priest, the Revd Vickery
House, at his home near Haywards Heath, in West Sussex, "on
suspicion of two separate sexual offences against two boys aged 17
and 18", between 1981 and 1983. He was released on police bail
until 29 November.
Sussex Police announced on Thursday that, during the two
days since the arrests had been made, ten more people had come
forward "alleging that sexual offences were committed against
them, seven by the 80-year-old [Bishop Ball] and three by the
67-year-old [Mr House], mainly in Sussex, during a period ranging
from the late 1970s to the early 1990s."
Detective Chief Inspector
Hughes said: "We are very interested to see that so many people
have contacted us since Tuesday, and every report is being followed
up. Anyone else who wishes to contact us is encouraged to do so by
calling Sussex Police via 101 and quoting Operation Dunhill. Calls
are treated with great sensitivity."
Chichester diocese said that Bishop
Ball "has had no ministry in Sussex for many years and no longer
lives in this area", and that Mr House's permission to officiate
had been suspended.
The diocese also reported that a phone
helpline had been set up, staffed by the NSPCC, "for anyone who
feels they need support or advice whenever learning of this or any
similar cases". The number is 0800 389 5344.