LETTERS sent by supporters of Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Gloucester imprisoned last year for indecent assault (News, 9 October), have been released by the Crown Prosecution Service after requests by journalists.
They include a letter sent to the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, after Ball was questioned by police in 1993. Lord Carey wrote: “It came as a terrible shock to me when I learnt that an investigation was under way into allegations of indecent behaviour with an adolescent.
“This seemed to me at first most improbable; his whole ministry appeared to show that he is an honourable man . . . I believe I am justified in drawing to your attention the excruciating pain and spiritual torment which these allegations have inevitably brought upon a man in his exposed position and with his sensibilities. Whatever the outcome in law, he will have suffered grievously.”
He said that “‘special pleading’ would be entirely inappropriate”, but that “the further shame of criminal action seems far too great a punishment.”
Lord Carey also wrote to Barbara Mills, who was then the Director of Public Prosecutions, drawing her attention to Ball’s health, and asking that the decision to prosecute be made “as speedily as possible”.
Another letter came from Lord Justice Lloyd, then a senior judge, who described Ball as an “upright, and saintly man”. He wrote: “I find it difficult to accept that such an awful fate could have befallen so good a man.”
Ball was formally cautioned by Gloucester Police in 1993 for gross indecency, and resigned as Bishop of Gloucester. In 2012, a new police investigation began, and, last year, he was sentenced to 32 months after pleading guilty to misconduct in public office and indecent assault.
Last week, a lawyer representing some of Ball’s victims, Richard Scorer, described the letter sent by Lord Carey as “extremely disturbing”. He said: “We cannot have a system where certain people receive more lenient treatment than others, because of who they happen to know.” Lord Carey has rebuffed accusations of a cover-up. Last October, the Archbishop of Canterbury commissioned an independent review into the Church’s handling of Ball’s case. Terms of reference, and the names of members are expected early this year. The case will also be among those explored by the Goddard Inquiry (News, 4 December).
A statement issued by Church House last week said that the sentencing of Ball was “a matter of deep shame and regret. . . There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place, nor for the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball.” It apologised “unreservedly” to the survivors of his abuse. Last month, the BBC reported that two “figures in the Church” raised concerns about Ball, “but were urged to keep quiet”. In addition, Michael and Christine Moss, who worked as Ball’s gardener and housekeeper in Gloucester, said that they tried to raise concerns with bishops, but were ignored.
Dr Warner defends diocese. The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, has defended the diocese’s handling of an accusation of abuse against one of his predecessors, George Bell.
Last year, allegations of the abuse by Bell of a young child in the late 1940s and early ’50s resulted in an apology and compensation (New, 30 October). Concerns have been expressed (Letters, 13 November), and were echoed by the journalist Charles Moore this week. Writing for The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, he accused the Church of treating Bell’s reputation as “dispensable” in its desire to protect itself.
In a letter of response, Dr Warner wrote: “The suggestion that we would trade the reputation of Bishop Bell for a moment of political, social, or even media advantage is seriously mistaken.”
The Church was “seeking to move on from a culture in which manipulation of power meant that victims were too afraid to make allegations, or allegations were easily dismissed”.
Dr Warner welcomed the Goddard inquiry, and said that, were the diocese shown to have “acted without proper attention to our responsibilities as guardians of the Christian faith, the vulnerable and the voiceless, then I would expect public censure and its consequences to follow”.
The Bishop and the MP - Press column by Andrew Brown