LAMBETH PALACE should have immediately handed over letters to the police that contained allegations against Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Gloucester, the detective who conducted the 1992 investigation told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA).
Wayne Murdock, formerly a detective inspector with Gloucestershire Police, also spoke about the time when a “devious” former Bishop of Chichester had covertly recorded an interview with him.
The Church knew an “awful lot” about the Ball case in 1992, and he could have faced further charges, and sooner, had this information been disclosed, Mr Murdock told IICSA on Wednesday.
Ball was arrested in December 1992 after allegations were brought by the late Neil Todd, who was repeatedly abused by Ball during the 1980s and ’90s, and who later took his own life. Ball accepted a police caution in early 1993, and resigned as bishop; but evidence of other assaults was not acted upon until 2015, leading to a three-year sentence for Ball, after he admitted to the abuse of 18 young men aged 17-25 (News, 7 October 2015).
Mr Murdock was being questioned by the lead counsel Fiona Scolding QC. How did he view the fact that the Church had withheld information from the police, including bishops’ files and letters sent to Lambeth Palace containing allegations of abuse, including from parents of abused youths?
“We should not have had to ask,” said Mr Murdock. “If anything was held on the Bishop, that should have been volunteered. . .
“They [Lambeth] knew an awful lot that was going on. . . My expectation would have been that, if you had anything, it would be handed over. From the Church, you don’t expect information to be withheld. That is common sense.”
Mr Murdock maintained that Ball could have faced other charges had the police been given the letters by Bishop Yates, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s chief of staff, despite having already received at least seven different accounts of Ball’s conduct from survivors at the time.
“I was led to believe [during the Gibb inquiry into the Ball affair, conducted last year] that these letters were far more damaging. If there was an overlap, fine; but the bottom line was that those letters should have been passed on for us to look at, and for us to make the judgement in terms of evidential value and where we could take the inquiry. . . Those letters should have been handed over, and could have made a difference.”
Dame Moira Gibb, who conducted the independent review into the Peter Ball case, told the Inquiry in her evidence on Friday: “It is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the letters would not have made a significant difference to police and CPS, but that does not excuse holding back the letters. . .
“Uncertainly gripped Lambeth palace about what Peter Ball had done.”
Mr Murdock denied being influenced by the people who rallied round Ball after his arrest. Ball’s twin brother Michael, who was then Bishop of Truro, had been “interfering” with the investigation, he said, including with letters and phone calls to potential witnesses defending his brother.
“He was coming very close to perverting the cause of justice. . . The damage had probably been done.”
Mr Murdock also confirmed that he had interviewed the then Bishop of Chichester, Dr Eric Kemp, at his residence as part of his investigations in January 1993. The Bishop had drawn the curtains on a bright day, and was covertly recording the interview, while an aide waited in a car outside, ready to “burst in” should anything untoward be said.
“You’re always wary that people could be tape recording you,” Mr Murdock said, “but I have to say, I didn’t expect the most senior bishop in the church, a 77-year-old I think he was at the time, to be — I’m going to use the word ‘devious’ — devious enough to tape record or agree to it.
“Because the effect, if I had said anything improper or done anything, the effect of it would have been — the bottom line would have been that I would have been removed probably from the investigation, and it would have been derailed.”
There would have been no other reason for the Bishop to record the interview, he said.
Dr Andrew Purkis, the former public-affairs secretary to Lord Carey during his time as Archbishop between 1991 and 2002, also gave evidence on Wednesday. He admitted that the influence of Peter Ball had been significant.
“It was very well known in Lambeth Palace that, not just some great and good people, but also loads and loads of church people, and so on, had a very high opinion of Peter Ball, and kept writing letters saying so. That was obviously a factor, and it was known; and so, you know, we would take that into account in the way in which we talked about things publicly, and so forth.”
He denied that Lambeth Palace had not taken Neil Todd, the allegations, including the letters, and the police investigation, seriously enough. “There was concern about the whole issue of breach of trust, and people in positions of power misusing it.”
He went on to agree with the evidence given by Lord Carey on Tuesday, that the Church lacked an understanding of the extent of the abuse.
Dr Purkis said: “I have been absolutely clear that the Church at that time, probably along with many other institutions, was insufficiently — grossly insufficiently — aware of the extent of abuse, the extent to which unequal power relations was almost bound, in some circumstances, to lead to abuse, and, therefore, the extent of credence and care that should be given to people who came forward with allegations.
“We were woefully short at that time. I don’t think we were the only institution, but that’s not an excuse, and I take my share of responsibility for that.”
Speaking about the contradictory behaviour of Peter Ball after his arrest and resignation, Dr Purkis said: “Certainly it was very annoying to some of us that he — although he would, out of one side of the mouth, express great penitence, he would then, out of the other side of the mouth, start saying he had been stitched up and hadn’t really done anything, and so on and so forth.
“That was a matter of great concern to us, that the Archbishop was getting drawn into all of that and spending much too much time on it.”
He accepted that the Church’s response to the investigation was inadequate.
The counsel later questioned Detective Superintendent Carwyn Hughes, who led the investigation Operation Dunhill into the case in 2014, which led to Ball’s conviction and imprisonment. He had had to act quickly to prevent witnesses, he said, including people who brought forward allegations, from being “unduly influenced” by the widespread press coverage at the time.
“I quickly came to understand that Peter Ball had a swathe of supporters within the Church; also a swathe of people that opposed him within the Church. But it was a case of making sure that we got to potential victims first to ensure they weren’t unduly influenced.”
He had also considered the “large amount” of correspondence between Prince Charles and Ball. He confirmed that he had been contacted by the Prince, who had asked whether any material had arisen from the investigation that might be “embarrassing” for him. This was “highly unusual”, and encouraged him to investigate the relationship further, he said.
He explained: “Because it’s embarrassing — it might be embarrassing on a personal level — that’s got nothing to do with Operation Dunhill. If it is material relevant to Operation Dunhill, highly relevant, that person becomes a witness.”