Bishop is charged over sex-assault offences

27 March 2014

A FORMER Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Peter Ball, will be prosecuted for indecent assaults on young men, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced on Thursday.

Jaswant Narwal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South East, said: "It is alleged that he sexually abused a number of young males between 1977 and 1992. The misconduct alleged is that he misused his position and authority to manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification. During this time Mr Ball was serving as a Bishop in the Church of England."

Bishop Ball, who is 82 years old, and lives in Langport, Somerset, is charged with misconduct in public office between 1977 and 1992, indecent assault on a boy, aged 12 or 13, in 1978, and indecent assault on a man, aged 19 or 20, between 1980 and 1982 .

Between 1977 and 1992 Bishop Ball was Bishop of Lewes. He became Bishop of Gloucester in 1992 but resigned in 1993, 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.              

He was arrested on 13 November 2012 "on suspicion of eight sexual offences in East Sussex and in one case elsewhere, during the late 1980s and early 1990s" but was released at his home that afternoon on medical advice, without being interviewed (News, 16 November, 2012).                     

On Thursday, a statement from Sussex Police said that, "with the full co-operation of the Church of England", the force had been investigating "alleged sexual offences by Bishop Ball against 19 men and young boys, who were at time in their late teens or early twenties, at addresses in East Sussex and elsewhere between the 1970s and the early 1980s, except for two who were 12 and 13 when the alleged offending occurred in the late 1970s".

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Bishop Ball will appear at Brighton Magistrates' Court on 10 April 2014.

On Thursday, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who chairs the Churches National Safeguarding Committee said: "The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. But we can never be complacent. We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence."

Safeguarding failures in the Diocese of Chichester have received large amounts of attention in recent years. In 2012 the diocese was the subject of the first archiepiscopal visitation for more than 100 years. A report by the Commissaries concluded that "dysfunctionality . . . continues to impinge upon the adequacy of safeguarding within the diocese" (News, 7 September, 2012). The final report, published last year, suggested that the diocese had taken "enormous steps forward" (News, 10 May).

The Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline: 0800 389 5344

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