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Extracts from the Peter Ball report

30 June 2017

The following selection of extracts from Dame Moira Gibb’s report attempts to summarise the tale of Bishop Peter Ball’s abuse and subsequent treatment from the Church. The full report contains many more incidents of missed opportunities to grasp the seriousness of his crimes


Brought to book: Peter Ball arriving at Taunton Magistrates Court in May 2014

Brought to book: Peter Ball arriving at Taunton Magistrates Court in May 2014

IN 1960 the Ball brothers founded a monastic religious community, the Community of the Glorious Ascension (CGA).

In 1968 an old barn was purchased in Somerset and renovated, with five members of the community moving to live there. Ball has said, in the course of a psychological assess­ment conducted in 2009, that it was here, believing that the Church had “gone soft”, that he began inflicting hardships on himself. These practices included sitting on a cold stone floor, praying naked in a cold chapel, fasting and self-flagellation. He also reported hitting other members of the community and being hit by them. He said that it was here that “things began to go wrong”.

When Ball first became a bishop [of Lewes] he announced that he would “continue to live as a religious with some of his brethren” — an unusual way of life for a bishop. In 1980 Ball launched an appeal to young people in East Sussex to join new residential communities which would give them a time-limited experi­ence of monastic discipline, spiritual develop­ment and practical Christian service.

As well as meeting boys and young men through the Give a Year to God scheme, Ball was a frequent visitor to some public schools and was a governor of several schools. . . He went on to form associations with a number of individual boys, sometimes offering intens­ive one to one “counselling”. Of the 18 victims cited when Ball was sentenced in 2015, five had encountered Ball while they were still at school. At least one abusive encounter took place on school premises.

Ball was appointed as Bishop of Gloucester in April 1992. Records indicate that the appoint­ment process deviated in part from standard practice — he was chosen despite being the second of two options considered.

Household expenditure on food and alcohol increased significantly following Ball’s arrival and the house was expensively decor­ated and furnished. The exception was Ball’s bedroom which was small and sparsely fur­nished but contained three mattresses. Unlike his predecessors Ball chose a bedroom at the far end of the residence, away from the staff. Ball received many visitors, usually young men, some of whom resided at Bishopscourt for some time.

In 1991 Ball had met a seventeen-year-old youth, Neil Todd, who lived in the Midlands.

Neil Todd and others subsequently re­­ported that Ball repeatedly encouraged him to engage in “spiritual” exercises involving naked­ness and cold showers. In September 1992 Ball suggested that Todd should agree to be beaten while naked so that his body should “bear the marks”. This beating did not take place because of the intervention of a member of domestic staff at Bishopscourt, Mr J, who had become increasingly concerned at Ball’s lifestyle and specifically his treatment of Neil Todd.

In order to avoid a confrontation with Ball, Mr J and his wife took Todd away with them on holiday.

They remained worried and, later that year, came to London to share their concerns with Bishop John Yates. He was well known to them as he had been Bishop of Gloucester immediately before Ball’s appointment. He was now the Bishop at Lambeth, the head of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s staff.

Bishop Yates is said to have listened but did not commit himself to any action.

Neil Todd returned to Bishopscourt in Oc­­tober 1992 and there was a further encounter involving explicitly sexual activity with Ball. Todd was very distressed by this. In mid-November Todd attempted suicide. Then, apparently because he had learned of another young man going to stay at Bishopscourt and feared for his welfare, Todd decided that he should disclose what had happened to him.

[Three more bishops besides Bishop Yates were now told: Roy Williamson, Bishop of Southwark; Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester; and Jeremy Walsh, Bishop of Tewkesbury.]

On 11 December 1992 Bishops Kemp and Williamson met in London and later that day briefed Lord Carey. Early the following morn­ing it was learned that Neil Todd had again attempted suicide during the night.


the arrest

ON 12 December a police investigation in Gloucester began, led by a Detective Inspec­tor, now retired, Mr F. He went to Notting­ham and interviewed Neil Todd. He told us that while there he received a notification that Sir Peter Imbert, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner (Chief Constable), had been in touch, seeking information about what was happening at the request of Lord Carey.

Over the next few days a formal statement was taken from Neil Todd and Ball was arrested on 14 December in connection with suspected indecent assault. He was accom­panied on arrest by Mr Chris Peak, the Dio­cesan Registrar.

Lambeth Palace issued a press statement acknowledging the police investigations into alleged indecent behaviour by Ball. Lord Carey had instructed Ball to rest from his official duties, and, the statement announced, was praying for him.

Mr Peak and the Ball brothers decided to engage someone to investigate the allegations, with a view to clearing Ball. A private invest­igator was identified, Mr D. He was both a former priest and former police officer.

Mr D’s thinking appears to have been that Ball was innocent and that Mr A [a key witness] was trying to discredit him. On 29 December Bishop Kemp wrote to Lord Carey describing the efforts in train to help Ball, including Mr D’s investigation, in the face of what he called a possible “deliberate framing”.

During December Lambeth Palace had received seven letters containing potentially disturbing information about Ball.

Mr F [the police inspector from Glouces­ter] reports that he came to London on 22 December to meet Bishop Yates at Lambeth Palace, in order to take possession of any relevant evidence. Files at Lambeth Palace contain no record of this meeting. Mr F told us that the only letter passed over to him was the first one [of the seven], which contained mainly positive comments.

On New Year’s Eve the Diocese of Glouces­ter issued a message from Lord Carey, to be read at churches throughout the diocese. This contained the following passage: “At my request Bishop Peter went away while the police are investigating the accusation. It was clear to me that he was under great strain. I want to say that I am as equally puzzled as you are. . . We all hope and pray that the investigation will clear his name. . .”

Early in the New Year [1993] Mr A wrote to Lord Carey expressing concerns firstly about Neil Todd’s welfare and then that the Church had apparently already taken the view that Ball was innocent.

In January Bishop Stephen Sykes, the Bishop of Ely, wrote to the Archbishop ad­­vising that a deacon in that diocese, Deacon K, had told him of receiving worrying allega­tions about Ball’s behaviour from two people including a young man who had been a mem­ber of one of Ball’s communities in Sussex.

The Archbishop did now appoint someone to make enquiries into the various concerns raised about Ball. This was a retired bishop, Ronald Gordon, Yates’s predecessor as Bishop at Lambeth.

In late January 1993, by his account, Mr D attended meetings in Gloucester with Mr Peak, one of Mr Peak’s colleagues with a background in criminal law, Mr G, and a QC. Ball himself also attended for at least part of the time. Mr D felt that Ball was protesting innocence without understanding the legal context. He explained to Ball in simple language the definition of indecent assault. He recorded that Ball replied “Oh yes, I did do that.” Mr D then explained what gross in­­decency was and recorded Ball’s response as “I did have an emission.” Mr Peak is said by Mr D to have put the consequence of this to Ball: “So you admit these offences, in which case you must resign from the See of Glouces­ter.”

It seems that it was at this stage that a proposal emerged that Ball be dealt with by way of a caution — a disposal to be used in minor cases when guilt is admitted. . . Police were told that Ball had made certain admis­sions to the legal team and would be prepared to accept a caution for an offence of gross indecency.


the rehabilitation

ON 5 February . . . Lord Carey wrote to the Chief Constable. His letter, which is support­ive of Ball, repeatedly emphasises that he would not want to interfere improperly in a police matter but suggests that, if Ball were guilty, such criminality would be “unrepre­sent­at­ive of his style”. While writing this, Lord Carey was aware that allegations had been received about Ball’s improper conduct with other young men and had already appointed Bishop Gordon to investigate them.

There was a campaign of support for Ball from some of his friends, some of whom were well known people in public life. . . Ball’s defence team subsequently claimed that they had received more than 2000 letters of support.

On 8 March 1993 the CPS [Crown Pros­ecution Service] and Gloucestershire Police announced that Ball had been cautioned by the police for one offence of gross indecency and that a pre-requisite of this, as with any other caution, was a full admission of guilt. At the same time Ball announced his immediate resignation as Bishop of Gloucester. He also retired from the stipendiary ministry of the Church on grounds of ill-health and began to draw a clergy disability pension.

Lord Carey’s statement [made in 2014] describes how, on 8 March 1993, he telephoned a man who he believed to be a senior officer in the CPS. The man told him that “any past indecency matters would not be taken any further”. Lord Carey states that he asked that this be put in writing to him but the man refused. Lord Carey’s statement goes on to say that “I was as satisfied as I could be that this was indeed closure.”

Meanwhile Bishop Yates reported . . . [that] both Mr A and Deacon K wanted the Church to apologise for the way in which Ball had misused his position, and demanded action to ensure that Ball was not entrusted with pastoral responsibility for young men in future. A note on Bishop Yates’ report, handwritten and unattributed, states “We resist such demands”.

In mid-March Bishop Yates issued a memo­­randum to all bishops, seeking to demon­strate that Neil Todd had been properly supported by the Church.

There was continuing cause for concern for Neil Todd. He had written to his local congregation, complaining that the Church was supporting Ball but had no time for his victims, of whom he claimed there were at least 50.

The enquiries being made on behalf of the Archbishop into concerns about Ball’s con­duct, led by Bishop Gordon, had effectively fizzled out without reaching any conclusion. From mid-1993 the emphasis of concern at Lambeth Palace was on whether, when and how Ball should be rehabilitated.

Ball’s resignation and retirement precluded the possibility of his occupying any further official post in the Church. The issue was whether, like other retired clergy, he might be granted Permission to Officiate (PTO) in acts of public worship.

In July 1993, in response to a query from Bishop Michael Ball, Lord Carey commented that it would be unwise for Peter Ball to take on any public duties. Bishop Michael con­tinued to correspond with the Archbishop, pressing the case that his brother might soon resume public ministry.

Peter Ball spent two days at Lambeth Palace in the first week of September 1993 as a guest of the Archbishop.

This was followed by two letters from Bishop Michael Ball in the same week asking that Lord Carey do more to progress Ball’s return to ministry. Lord Carey wrote to Bishop Michael reminding him that he had not placed Peter Ball’s name on the [Lambeth Caution] List, and that he had considered this carefully. Bishop Michael responded angrily, remarking that he could take action unilat­erally as the diocesan bishop. . . The Arch­bishop [wrote] to Bishop Michael Ball to the effect that any such action on his part would be “perilous”.

In March 1994 Ball arranged to be involved in “Quiet Days” in a deanery. Lord Carey learned of this and advised against doing so. In May Bishop Michael told Lord Carey that he was making arrangements for his brother to assist at a church in his diocese: the Archbishop again advised against this and the brothers did not proceed.

Despite Bishop Yates’ advice . . . in June 1994 the Archbishop wrote to Bishop Michael Ball agreeing to Peter Ball’s return to limited ministry, in the diocese of Truro only.

Ball was a guest of Lord Carey at Lambeth Palace for two days in November 1994.

For Ball a breakthrough came in early January 1995 when Lord Carey agreed that he could be given PTO in the parish in Cornwall in which he lived. The PTO was to take effect from March 1995 and was valid for six months. During 1995 Ball’s gradual return to ministry and the erosion of the Church’s opposition continued. In January Lord Carey gave permission for Ball to go to the USA to lead Holy Week and Easter services in a parish there. In his correspondence with that parish the Archbishop wrote that “Peter was Bishop of Gloucester but was deprived of his episcopal ministry two years ago because of a criminal act against a minor. . . Peter was pos­sibly the victim of a plot but that, of course, cannot be proved”.

In January 1996 Lord Carey agreed that Ball should be permitted to preach at a public school, provided that the school were made aware of possible hostile press interest. He further agreed in March that Ball could con­duct confirmations and preach at two more schools. Ball was still the President of the Anglican Fellowship in Scouting and Guiding.

In January 1997 Lord Carey made a state­ment at a regular meeting of all bishops, to the effect that they could at their discretion allow Ball to exercise a full episcopal ministry.

Ball went on to make full use of his PTO, accepting engagements in a number of dio­ceses, including the conduct of confirmations in a number of schools.

Bishop Kemp was to retire in 2001. Shortly before his retirement, following correspond­ence from Bishop Michael Ball, Bishop Kemp appointed Peter Ball as Emeritus Canon of Chichester — an award usually made in recognition of long and honourable service.


the imprisonment

IN 2012, after advice from the Church’s National Safeguarding Adviser, Ms Elizabeth Hall, Lord Williams decided that all the information about Ball from across the Church should be brought to Lambeth Palace and reviewed centrally.

Hall . . . took advice from the then Director of the Child Exploitation and Online Protec­tion Centre, whom she knew. He confirmed the seriousness of what had been uncovered and he himself referred all these matters to the Chief Constable of Sussex.

On receipt of that information Sussex Police began an investigation, Operation Dunhill, in July 2012.

In July 2012 police made Neil Todd aware of the recent developments. Todd was now living in Australia, where he had built a successful career in nursing and was in a stable long-term relationship. He was also contacted by members of the press. In August 2012 Neil Todd took his own life.

Ball was brought before the courts in October 2015. He admitted two indecent assaults and a charge of misconduct in public office. This charge derived from his admission that he had misused his position and author­ity to manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification. Had he not admitted these matters the Crown would have called up to 18 witnesses to give evidence of the harm he had caused them. The earliest such evidence dated from 1969 — more than twenty years before Ball met Neil Todd.

He began his prison sentence on 7 October 2015.

On 11 January 2016 Peter Ball was sent, from Lambeth Palace, the following notifica­tion of a penalty under the Clergy Discip­linary Measure 2003: “After consultation with the Bishops of Winchester and London, the Archbishop of Canterbury has imposed upon you a penalty of prohibition for life with effect from 23rd December 2015.”

Ball was released from prison on 3 Feb­ruary 2017.

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