Peter Ball (bishop)

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The Right Reverend
Peter Ball
Bishop of Gloucester
Diocese Diocese of Gloucester
In office 1992–1993
Predecessor John Yates
Successor David Bentley
Other posts Bishop of Lewes
1977–1992 (suffragan bishop: 1984–1992)
Ordination 1956 (deacon)
1957 (priest)
Consecration 1977
Personal details
Denomination Anglican
Occupation Bishop, monk
Alma mater Queens' College, Cambridge
Criminal charge Misconduct in public office, Indecent assault,
Criminal penalty 32 months in prison
Criminal status Released on licence in February 2017
Conviction(s) 8 September 2015 (guilty plea)

Peter John Ball CGA (born 14 February 1932) is a retired British bishop in the Church of England and convicted sex offender. He was formerly the suffragan Bishop of Lewes and then the diocesan Bishop of Gloucester. He and his twin brother (Michael Ball) established a monastic community, the Community of the Glorious Ascension, in 1960.

In October 2015, Ball was sentenced to 32 months' imprisonment for misconduct in public office and indecent assault after admitting the abuse of 18 young men over a period of 15 years from 1977 to 1992..[1][2][3][4] Further charges of indecently assaulting two boys, aged 13 and 15, were allowed to lie on file in a contentious decision by the CPS [5]

Early life[edit]

Ball was born on 14 February 1932. He was educated at Lancing College, a public school in Lancing, West Sussex. He then studied at Queens' College, Cambridge, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1954; as per tradition, his BA was promoted to a Master of Arts (MA) degree in 1958.[6] He entered Wells Theological College in 1954 and received two years of training in preparation for ordination.[6]

Ordained ministry[edit]

Ball was ordained in the Church of England as a deacon in 1956 and as a priest in 1957.[6] He began his ministry as a curate in Rottingdean.[7] He then received basic monastic training at Kelham Theological College. In 1960 he and his identical twin brother, Michael, founded a monastic community, the Community of the Glorious Ascension (CGA), of which he was prior until his ordination to the episcopate.[8] This brought many young boys who were novice monks into his care over the years.[9] Whilst prior of CGA, he combined his duties as a member of a religious order with several other pastoral roles, including three years as vicar of the Church of the Holy Angels, Hoar Cross, in Staffordshire.

Bishop of Lewes[edit]

Ball was the first suffragan Bishop of Lewes to become an area bishop when the diocese's area scheme was instituted in 1984.[10]

Official inquiries into prolonged failure to prevent child abuse in the Diocese of Chichester which includes Lewes brought up allegations against Ball, of which he was later convicted.[9]

Bishop of Gloucester, police caution and resignation[edit]

After having been translated to the see of Gloucester in 1992, Ball resigned from his position as Bishop of Gloucester in 1993 after admitting to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man and accepting a formal police caution for it.[11] In 1993, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyers said that "sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence" existed that Ball had committed indecent assault and gross indecency.[9] At the time, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Barbara Mills, decided not to prosecute Ball[2] though the CPS believes today that prosecution in 1993 would have been in the public interest.[12]

At Ball's trial in 2015 it was stated that a member of the royal family, a lord chief justice, JPs, cabinet ministers and public school headmasters—"many dozens" of people—had campaigned to support him in 1993. There were a further 2,000 letters of support. The Reverend Graham Sawyer, an abuse victim, wants a full investigation and blames corrupt elements in the British Establishment. Sawyer believes that the establishment is still too strong and its links with the church should be investigated.[13] Phil Johnson, who claims Ball abused him when he was 13 years old, said it looked like a deal was done between the Church of England, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the CPS, and said, "I think there was great effort made to avoid bad publicity and to avoid the embarrassment of trying a bishop in public." David Greenwood, a solicitor acting for some victims, said that "With more power comes the ability to work in a culture where you feel that you can get away with it. It seems Peter Ball has been able to do that."[12][14] Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the NSS, believes this was an orchestrated campaign. Wood wants to find out who was behind the alleged campaign and also wants to see copies of relevant letters examined and a comprehensive list obtained of callers and writers, particularly of high profile and influential campaigners. There has been a call for the Goddard Inquiry to look into why Ball was not prosecuted in 1993.[15][16]


After his resignation, Ball was given accommodation at "Manor Lodge", Aller, Somerset, on the Duchy of Cornwall estate of Charles, Prince of Wales[2][13]). George Carey, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury, allowed Ball to continue officiating as a priest, but not as a bishop, after his resignation (i.e., he could not ordain clergy or confirm but could still celebrate the Eucharist).[2][17] He was granted permission to officiate in the Diocese of Bath and Wells from 2001 to 2010.[6] Peter Hancock, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, has been critical of Ball being allowed to serve in the Langport area after his retirement.[18]

Trial and conviction for sexual abuse[edit]

In May 2012 it was reported that the Church of England had carried out a safeguarding review of Ball and passed the review and historic files to Sussex Police. Ann Lawrence from the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors organisation described this as "a major first step" for the Church of England. Abuse victim Neil Todd, who later died by suicide, said that:

"It is an investigation which to be honest is well overdue. It [the abuse] stayed with me throughout my life's journey and even this far down the track it doesn't feel like there's any real closure. The abuse was varied. The worst of it was mental abuse. Obviously there was a component of sexual abuse. But basically it was mind games and controlling behaviour. (...) When it came to the abuse, the abuse was sexual, mental and physical. He was just not a very nice human being.[19]

The police stated that "The reports and files relate to matters more than 20 years ago and we will review the contents in order to establish whether any police investigation of possible criminal offences would be merited. This review is likely to take several weeks. We are not prepared to expand on this statement at this time.”[20]

On 13 November 2012 news services reported that Ball had been arrested for police questioning at his home near Langport, Somerset, following allegations of child sexual abuse during the late 1980s and early 1990s in the Diocese of Chichester.[21][22] Sussex Police said Ball was released the same day on medical advice. The police said they intended to interview Ball at a later date. The police statement stated that the offences leading to Ball's being sought for questioning "were allegedly committed against eight boys and young men, all of whom were at [the] time in their late teens or early twenties, except one who was 12."[23] Three days later, police announced that a further seven people had come forward with allegations of abuse by Ball.[24]

On 27 March 2014 Jaswant Narwal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service South East, announced that based on review of evidence gathered by Sussex Police, they would seek to prosecute Ball on three charges dating to the time when he served as a bishop.[25][26] The news brief stated that the three charges were:

On 8 September 2015 Ball pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and one of misconduct in a public office.[27] His trial began on 5 October 2015.[28] Two charges of indecently assaulting two boys in their early teens, perhaps the most serious alleged offences, were allowed to lie on file in a secret deal with CPS lawyers.[17] Keith Porteous Wood sees this as yet another example of the law enforcement system repeatedly treating Ball leniently.[16]

I urge the prosecuting authorities to reconsider their decision and if appropriate charge him for all credible allegations using the same offences as they would for any ordinary member of the public. This includes "indecent assaults on two other teenage boys, one in Eastbourne in the late 1970s and one in Litlington in the early 1980s. (Keith Porteous Wood) [29]

Bobbie Cheema QC said for the prosecution:

[Ball] was highly regarded as a godly man who had a special affinity with young people. The truth was that he used those 15 years in the position of bishop to identify, groom and exploit sensitive and vulnerable young men who came within his orbit. For him, religion was a cloak behind which he hid in order to satisfy his sexual interest in those who trusted him.[2]

At the Old Bailey on 7 October, Mr Justice Wilkie sentenced Ball to 32 months in prison.[2] He will be eligible for parole after 18 months[30] and is expected to serve under a month for each victim.[31] The late Neil Todd's partner, Marc Hawley, said:

two years and eight months – for 15 years of sexual exploitation, abuse and grooming of young men who came into his orbit while he was the bishop of Lewes. I am more than glad that Peter Ball now resides at Her Majesty’s pleasure even though the sentence is far too lenient for the gravity of his activities.[15]

Many victims have claimed severe lasting harm[32] and Civil Court action against the Diocese of Chichester was lodged in October 2015. A Church of England priest said that when he was a teenager Ball had tried to make him have sex considered an "act of commitment" as a condition of being ordained.[33] There are allegations of serious corruption and cover-ups within the Church of England regarding Ball's abuse.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has ordered an independent review of the way the Church of England dealt with Ball's case,[34] but the Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors group and Keith Porteous Wood are unsure if the investigation will be sufficiently far reaching. Wood accused a former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, of encouraging the cover-up and Carey has been quoted stating:

I was worried that if any other allegations of past indecency were made it [criminal action against Ball] would reignite. I wanted some reassurance that this would not be the case. … I was so troubled, that evening after dinner I went to my study. … I was supplied with a number of a man at the CPS I believed to be a director. I do not recall his name. … I rang him and asked what might happen if allegations from the past were made. … I was told quite categorically that the other allegations would not be taken further as far as we are concerned.[35]

Wood commended current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby for initiating the inquiry.[29] The Guardian's crime correspondent, Sandra Laville, also wrote that Carey knew of the cover-up.[9] Ruth Gledhill, writing in Christianity Today, claims further that Carey intervened personally over the matter.[36] Carey insists he only contacted the CPS after Ball had been cautioned.[14] Abuse survivor Graham Sawyer, who alleges decades of pressure from the Church of England to silence him, believes that the church should no longer police itself.[37] By contrast, a Church of England statement points out they made recent efforts to expose abuse:

[The investigation] began as a direct result of the safeguarding officer at Lambeth Palace raising concerns about Peter Ball following a church initiated review of files. The approach to the police was a proactive step on the part of the national Church leading to a self-initiated referral via CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre) to Sussex Police in 2012. This led to active co-working between Lambeth Palace, the Diocese of Chichester and Sussex Police on a complex enquiry with full information sharing. We pay tribute to those detectives whose work on this case over the past three years has led to this conviction and sentencing.[38]

A former vicar, Vickery House, is serving 6½ years in prison for sex assaults against men and a boy. House worked in the same diocese as Ball. House and Ball collaborated running a "Give a Year For Christ" scheme and both men abused three of the same victims during the scheme. If Ball had not pleaded guilty both men would have been tried together.[39] There was a long delay between the first complaints to the police over House and a proper police investigation.[40]

Ball was released from prison on licence in February 2017, after having served half of his sentence.[41][42]

After the trial[edit]

On 16 December 2015, the BBC published a report on the Ball affair. Cliff James had told the BBC that he informed a cleric in 1992 about abuse he had suffered. James alleges three bishops later telephoned his contact urging her to discourage him and another stated victim from going to the police or to the media. Thirteen different bishops allegedly took no action after a person in the church raised concerns. Ball's housekeeper and gardener, Christine and Michael Moss, said that bishops ignored their concerns over Ball. Michael Moss said, "What upsets me so much is the Church did nothing." BBC reporter Colin Campbell stated that during 20 years three different police forces tried to access information the Church of England held about Ball but investigations started only in 2012. Martin Warner, Bishop of Chichester, said he would call the above a cover up and, "in terms of our practice today, that would immediately be the trigger for disciplinary action."[43]

On 23 February 2016, the BBC published information about documents they discovered suggesting Ball's defence team tried during the 1990s to negotiate with the police and avoid a public trial. Ball promised to resign as bishop, leave Britain and retire to a French convent.[44] Ball, however, stayed active as a priest until 2010 and remained in the United Kingdom.

It looks like there was a deeply sinister, coordinated, but probably in the end rather inept attempt at a cover-up.(Graham Sawyer, abuse survivor and vicar who waived his right to anonymity)[45]

It has been alleged that Ball may have impersonated his twin brother, Michael, and acted as a bishop in his brother's place, notably in Cornwall. Investigations are underway.[46]


In early 2016, it was announced that Dame Moira Gibb would chair a review into how the allegations against Ball were handled and why there was so little credence given to his victims, also whether the Church of England complied with its statutory duties.[47] The review had been criticised among other reasons because it will happen behind closed doors and lack what is considered necessary transparency and because it does not "specifically include the questionable role played by the Church in bringing undue influence to bear on the administration of justice concerning Ball's abuse".[48]

I believe that the Church of England review should add bullying and silencing of victims and whistleblowers to the terms of reference and I shall be making this clear to Dame Moira before agreeing to take part. (Graham Sawyer, a vicar and abuse survivor speaking in Feb 2016)[49]

Sawyer stated in April 2016 that he is refusing to co-operate with the review because alleged bullying by high ranking current church office holders will not be investigated.[50] Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society said:

The institutional bullying and silencing almost succeeded in preventing Bishop Ball ever being brought to justice. The Church's obdurate refusal at the highest levels to specify them [bullying and silencing] in the Terms of Reference should ring alarm bells about the seriousness of its intentions to look at them with the requisite priority. Maintaining the refusal means the principal witness Graham Sawyer, and perhaps others, will not give evidence and this further undermines the validity of the Review. At least he will be able to give his evidence to the Independent (Goddard) Inquiry set up by the Government.[51]

Moira Gibb published her report in June 2017.[52]

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will include investigation of the Church of England and also specifically deal with the Ball case as well as other cases in the Diocese of Chichester.[44]

2017 review[edit]

An independent review in 2017 found that the Church hierarchy, notably former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, colluded in concealing abuse by Peter Ball over a 20-year period. Carey had seven letters from individuals and relatives after Ball was cautioned by police in 1992 but passed only one (of least concern) on to the police. Carey did not put Peter Ball on the 'Lambeth List' of clergy whose suitability for the ministry is questioned. Concealing abuse was given higher priority than helping victims. The review claims, “The church appears to have been most interested in protecting itself.” The report stated further, “progress [towards dealing satisfactorily with claims of abuse in the Church of England] has been slow and continuing, faster improvement is still required”. Current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said the C of E, "colluded and concealed" instead of trying to help, "those brave enough to come forward". Welby has asked Carey to step down from his role assisting the Bishop of Oxford. Rowan Williams was also criticised.

Abuse survivor, Graham Sawyer, said the C of E treated him and others with contempt. Sawyer said, “The church continues to use highly aggressive legal firms to bully, frighten and discredit victims ... In my own case, I continue to endure cruel and sadistic treatment by the very highest levels of the church”. Sawyer wants the police to investigate Carey's part in the Ball case.[53][54][55]

Selected works[edit]

  • Ball, Peter (1986). "Exploring the depths: why pray?". In Mayne, Michael. Encounters: exploring Christian faith. London: Darton, Longman & Todd. pp. 65–74. ISBN 0-232-51669-3. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Laville, Sandra (8 September 2015). "Peter Ball victims accuse C of E, police and CPS of sexual abuse cover-up". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Laville, Sandra (7 October 2015). "Bishop escaped abuse charges after MPs and a royal backed him, court told". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  3. ^ "Retired bishop Peter Ball admits sex offences". BBC News. 8 September 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  4. ^ "Bishop Peter Ball sex abuse victims sue Church of England". BBC News. 6 October 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d "P. J. Ball"Paid subscription required. Crockford's Clerical Directory (online ed.). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  7. ^ Debrett's People of Today (1992, London, Debrett's) ISBN 1-870520-09-2
  8. ^ Who's Who 1992 London, A & C Black, 1991 ISBN 0-7136-3514-2
  9. ^ a b c d "Peter Ball victims accuse C of E, police and CPS of sexual abuse cover-up", The Guardian (London).
  10. ^ "4: The Dioceses Commission, 1978–2002" (PDF). Church of England. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Brown, Andrew (9 March 1993). "Bishop quits after police caution for indecency". The Independent. London. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  12. ^ a b "Peter Ball should have been prosecuted for sex abuse 22 years ago admits CPS", Christian Today.
  13. ^ a b Harley, Nicola (7 October 2015). "Bishop 'avoided prosecution for sex abuse after royal support' - Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "Bishop Ball sex charges caution 'wrong' admits CPS", BBC News.
  15. ^ a b "Bishop Peter Ball case 'should be part of child sex abuse inquiry'", The Guardian, 9 October 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Former Anglican bishop Peter Ball jailed as victims sue Church of England over 'cover-up'", website.
  17. ^ a b "Former bishop admits sexually abusing young men", The Guardian (London), 8 September 2015.
  18. ^ "Bishop of Bath and Wells: Bishop Peter Ball should not have been allowed to serve in Langport area", Western Gazette.
  19. ^ Campbell, Colin (28 May 2012). "Church of England inquiry into Sussex abuse bishop". BBC Online. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  20. ^ "Police review dossier over disgraced Bishop". Eastbourne Herald. 29 May 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  21. ^ "Former Bishop Peter Ball arrested over sex abuse claims". BBC News. 13 November 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  22. ^ Pugh, Tom (13 November 2012). "Retired bishop Peter Ball held in child sex abuse investigation". The Independent. London. Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  23. ^ Sussex Police. "Arrested clergy released - Sussex Police statement". Diocese of Chichester Update, 8:19 pm, Tue 13 Nov 2012. ITV. Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  24. ^ Pugh, Tom (16 November 2012). "More allegations made in investigation of ex-bishop Peter Ball". The Independent. Retrieved 12 May 2016. 
  25. ^ Narwal, Jaswant. "Peter Ball (Former Bishop of Gloucester and Lewes) – Charging decision, CPS News Brief Blog 27/03/2014". Crown Prosecution Service. Retrieved 27 March 2014. 
  26. ^ "Peter Ball (Former Bishop of Gloucester and Lewes) - Charging decision". Crown Prosecution Service. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Former bishop Peter Ball admits sex offences". BBC Online. Retrieved 8 September 2015. 
  28. ^ Frank Le Duc (20 January 2015). "Date set for retired bishop and fellow former Brighton priest to face child sex abuse trial". Brighton and Hove News. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Peter Ball sex abuse case: 20 questions that must be answered National Secular Society
  30. ^ "Prison for Bishop Peter Ball, but victims still seek justice", Church Times, 9 October 2015.
  31. ^ "Peter Ball - jailed for just one month for each victim", The Argus.
  32. ^ Mr Justice Wilkie (7 October 2015). "Sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Wilkie: R v Ball". Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  33. ^ "Bishop Peter Ball sex abuse victims sue Church of England", BBC News, 6 October 2015.
  34. ^ "Church inquiry into Bishop Peter Ball abuse 'cover up'", BBC News.
  35. ^ Damning details emerge about establishment cover-up of Anglican sex abuse
  36. ^ "Former Bishop of Gloucester pleads guilty to sex abuse", Christianity Today.
  37. ^ "'Deeply corrupt' Church of England tried to silence me, abuse victim claims", ITV.
  38. ^ "Peter Ball sentenced", Thinking Anglicans website.
  39. ^ "Vickery House: Priest jailed over sex attacks", BBC.
  40. ^ "'Nothing done' over priest Vickery House 'sex reports'", BBC.
  41. ^ "Sex abuse bishop Peter Ball released from prison". BBC News. 4 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017. 
  42. ^ Gibb, Moira (22 June 2017), An Abuse of Faith: The Independent Peter Ball Review (PDF), Church of England, sec. 3.12.6, retrieved 11 November 2017 
  43. ^ "Clergy 'tried to cover up Bishop Peter Ball sex abuse'", BBC News.
  44. ^ a b Independent review to shed light on Church’s handling of Peter Ball case
  45. ^ "'Cover up' allowed Bishop Peter Ball to escape justice", BBC News.
  46. ^ "Fears former bishop paedophile Peter Ball impersonated his identical twin brother", Western Daily Press.
  47. ^ "Church seeks 'lessons' from Bishop Peter Ball abuse review", BBC News.
  48. ^ NSS raises alarm over major flaws in Church’s sex abuse inquiry
  49. ^ "Church appoints panel to examine its role in Peter Ball abuse case", The Guardian, 23 February 2016.
  50. ^ Bishop Peter Ball victim steps away from Church investigation into clergy sex abuse
  51. ^ Church review into abusive Bishop refuses to explicitly consider bullying of victims in its Terms of Reference
  52. ^ "An Abuse of Faith"
  53. ^ Justin Welby asks George Carey to quit over church abuse report
  54. ^ Church 'colluded' with sex abuse bishop Peter Ball
  55. ^ Flaming June proves a harsh month for Church of England