Peter Ball: How the British Establishment protects its own

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Richard Scorer

Richard Scorer is Head of the Abuse team at Slater & Gordon Lawyers and acts for victims of Peter Ball. His book Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis was published last year by Biteback Books

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Peter Ball: How the British Establishment protects its own by Richard Scorer

So Peter Ball , formerly Bishop Ball, has now been jailed. Many aspects of this appalling case have been aired in the media in the past few weeks, including the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s role in 1992-3 in securing a caution for Ball and, apparently, a guarantee of no further police action. At today’s hearing we were reminded, amongst other things,  of Ball’s nauseating claim that his victims had been “spiritually uplifted” by his behaviour. But a full accounting of this extraordinary saga is only just beginning.

The Ball case is a stark reminder of how the British establishment’s reflex has frequently been to close ranks and attempt  to smear victims and whistleblowers who speak out about abuse in high places.   As one of my clients observes,  “from the moment that caution was administered in 1993, the church hierarchy fell over themselves to emphasise that even if Ball had “been tempted”, this was an uncharacteristic aberration from an otherwise selfless life of service to the poor and needy. In driving home this point, the church did their utmost to cast doubt on Ball’s guilt and smear his victims”. One of those victims was Neil Todd – who, as many readers will know, took his own life in 2012.

A good illustration of how Todd and Ball were portrayed  in some parts of the media is a long piece which appeared in The Daily Telegraph in March 1993. It’s written by a Graham Turner (the author, appropriately perhaps, of a book entitled  The Power of Silence) and you can read it below. Ball, it claims, is a man of “extraordinary dedication and charisma“. The details of what he actually did wrong are “still murky” and “as in all such matters, the whole truth is impossible to ascertain“. But whatever happened sprang only from Ball’s desire “to help and comfort someone in considerable distress“. His accuser, “who last week sold his version of events to The Sun after offering it at least one other national newspaper, claims that the Bishop sexually assaulted him“.  As a result, Ball’s life’s work is now “in ruins“. Having had “an extensive range of friendships outside the diocese“, including Margaret Thatcher, with whom he “dined at the Savoy wearing his monk’s habit“, he is now “living under virtual house arrest“, and is in “desperate need of a lengthy convalescence to rebuild his body and spiritual health“. Fortunately for Ball, however,  “a great many of his influential friends – including former Cabinet ministers – have stood by him“. Nowhere in the article was even a passing word of sympathy for Todd; Turner clearly believed that the real victim in all of this was Ball himself.

That was in 1993. Todd’s allegations weren’t just “claims”, of course; they were facts, and by accepting a caution Ball had acknowledged his own sexual offending, although this one admission barely scratched the surface. Given that Ball had effectively escaped justice via a tawdry plea bargain, it was perhaps no surprise that Todd felt the need to speak publicly. Most extraordinary is the boast that Ball’s influential friends had stood by him, as if this was to their credit as loyal friends, not to their damning shame for siding with a sex offender.  But this rubbishing of Todd set the pattern for the next 20 years.  By the mid 2000s clerical sex abuse was attracting greater media attention – most of it, at that stage, directed at the Catholic Church, but with a dawning realisation that the Church of England might be rife with cover up too. Yet in 2006 Ball’s immediate superior, Eric Kemp – the former Bishop of Chichester who a number of years earlier had reportedly told Ball to “stop inviting young men into his house” –  felt bold enough to publish the assertion that Ball’s  resignation had been the “work of mischief makers”.  Thus – as one of my clients puts it – “sealing Ball’s rehabilitation and damming Neil Todd and others who were telling the truth ..  just in time for Ball to be Master of Ceremonies at the funeral of Prince Charles’s father-in-law”.

A year later, in 2007, the Church of England announced that it would be cleansing the stables. Amid much fanfare, and following savage public criticism of its record on child abuse, the church launched a “comprehensive” review of “more than 40,000 diocesan files dating back more than 30 years”. In 2010, apparently following exhaustive investigations,  11 cases “which needed formal action ” were referred to the authorities for further investigation . The Rt Rev Anthony Priddis, Bishop of Hereford and the then chair of the church’s “central safeguarding liaison group” claimed that “whilst no such review can ever be perfect, we have done all we can to ensure it has been as comprehensive as possible. It indicates there are no outstanding issues of which the church has previously been made aware”.

I remember the 2010 announcement very well. It all seemed quite plausible. But Phil Johnson and other campaigners warned against taking the church at their word. And they were right: Ball’s case was not among those referred back in 2010, despite his 1993 caution and much other evidence making him an obvious candidate for further review. That reference back to the authorities had to wait until 2012, when a retired police officer working for Lambeth Palace passed the Ball files over to Sussex Police.

Archbishop Welby has now announced an ‘independent inquiry’ into the Ball case.  We don’t yet know who will lead it.   And no doubt Welby will say that in responding in this way, the church is taking to heart Justice Goddard’s call for institutions implicated in child abuse to “take a proactive stance towards the Inquiry – to review your files, records and procedures voluntarily and take the initiative to self-report instances of institutional failure – rather than waiting for us to come and see you”.    But does anyone really believe that this organisation is capable of conducting a genuinely independent inquiry into sex abuse and cover-up at the highest level in its own ranks? Set against the history now emerging, the notion seems laughable. Only Goddard, using her full statutory powers, can properly unpick the Ball case, and the whole Chichester saga surrounding it. It needs to be one of the first items on her agenda.

Daily Telegraph March 1993 (Click to enlarge)

Sunday Telegraph P Ball 14.3.93

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Richard Scorer is Head of the Abuse team at Slater & Gordon Lawyers and acts for victims of Peter Ball. His book Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis was published last year by Biteback Books

From today’s news

A retired Church of England bishop has been jailed for a string of offences against teenagers and young men.

Peter Ball, 83, was sentenced to 32 months for misconduct in a public office and 15 months for indecent assaults, to run concurrently.

The former Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester used “religion as a cloak” to carry out the abuse between the 1970s and 1990s, the court heard.

The Church of England said there were “no excuses”.

Ball was described by the judge at the Old Bailey, Mr Justice Wilkie, as a man who did “so much good and so much harm”.

BBC News

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12 Comments

Filed under Abuse, News

12 responses to “Peter Ball: How the British Establishment protects its own

  1. Pingback: Peter Ball: How the British Establishment protects its own | Alternative News Network

  2. The Walrus

    Nothing like an apostate hypocrite spending the rest of his life in prison. Next stop, HELL.

  3. Alan Martin

    Might someone prevail upon the BBC to produce an in depth Panorama programme covering the Ball case?

    • Aardvark

      Yes we can count on the BBC to do a thoroughly, non inclusive, investigative programme with blaringly obvious obmissions to suit the establishment agenda and thoroughly hood wink the public into thinking they have done a marvelous job into the bargain and put all those messy, cover up stories to bed!

      Perhaps they could call it ‘The Bishop, the Prince, the Arch Bishop, the Cabinet Ministers, The senior Judge and Public School head masters and how they didn’t really try to evade justice and support a pedarast, the truth!’ It’s amazing to see how the Public school head masters could see no problem with Peter Ball’s behaviour, showing how normalised it must be in their Public Schools.

      If Peter Ball hadn’t been hiding behind his position in the Church, with all his establishment friends supporting him, he would have been sent down 20 years ago and been called a nasty, manipulative pedarast, who used his trusted position to abuse vulnerable boys, one of whom later took his own life. Helping to cover up abuse should be regarded as a criminal offence with a long sentence, regardless of status or rank. The establishment should not be allowed to get away with this or any other cover up, which are bound to come to light.

      Of course the BBC programme would say, what a wonderful man Peter Ball could be, his friends said he did so much for charity etc. Just like Saville then, a nasty, manipulative pedarast, who hid behind his charity work and violated young peoples lives. If the BBC think that they can keep hoodwinking the public about their own particular stable of pedarists, they are severely mistaken, Savile is coming back to haunt them very soon!

  4. Anon

    Who Buggers the Bishops but the Bishops themselves ?

  5. Charles and a REAL VIP sex abuse scandal: How Prince, ex-Cabinet ministers and former law chief ‘supported’ bishop jailed yesterday for crimes against boys.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3263475/Bishop-abused-young-priests-naked-prayers-got-away-two-decades.html

  6. HG

    When and how can something be done about the CofE?
    They keep making noise about independent inquiries but don’t know what independent is:
    http://www.opnlttr.com/letter/letter-questions-dioceses-winchester-and-canterbury

    http://www.opnlttr.com/letter/second-letter-questions-dioceses-winchester-and-canterbury

  7. Teresa

    Richard Scorer. Did he want to help with the Kendall House abuse and review? Did he help me when the church was behaving badly re the KH review? Still no review one year and one month later and the church have put me through hell. Did he help me when I got that low because the church have been doing the same thing to me and still are? Did he think all the children and grandchildren born with birth defects were worth fighting for? Or the non existent KH review?

    He is fully aware of the KH situation. How long has he known about the Peter Ball situation?

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