England

Bishop Peter Ball sex abuse victims sue Church of England

Bishop Peter Ball Image copyright Western Gazette
Image caption Peter Ball served as Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester until 1993

Sex abuse victims of former Sussex bishop Peter Ball are suing the Church of England for hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Ball, 83, who admitted offences against 18 teenagers and young men in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, is being sentenced at the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

Lawyer David Greenwood who represents four victims said legal action had been lodged against the Chichester diocese

The Church of England has not yet commented.

Mr Greenwood, from Switalskis Solicitors, said given the "wealth of evidence" the latest legal action was unlikely to reach court and would probably end in a settlement with amounts varying between a few thousand pounds and hundreds of thousands of pounds.

But he added: "Obviously no amount of money will compensate for what happened to them and each claimant has different circumstances.

"Some have lost opportunities for careers. Some have had lots of anguish and torment personally."

He said it was hoped Ball, despite his age and ill health, would receive a jail sentence from Mr Justice Wilkie.

"If he is fit and able to withstand prison, he should receive a custodial sentence," he said. "But certainly I think the hope is that he will have some severe punishment."

At least two victims who have waived their right to anonymity are expected to attend court to see the ex-bishop of Lewes and Gloucester sentenced.

The retired clergyman, who now lives in Langport, Somerset, last month admitted misconduct in a public office and sexual assault.

'Controlling monster'

Earlier, a Church of England vicar revealed how Ball tried to blackmail him into having sex if he was going to allow him to become ordained.

As a teenager, the Reverend Graham Sawyer visited the former bishop in the 1970s.

He said Ball tried to take off his clothes and wanted an "act of commitment" if he was to be ordained.

Mr Sawyer said Ball was a "monster" who controlled him with a "cloak of spirituality".

Image caption Peter Ball - pictured at a previous court hearing in August 2014 - will be sentenced on Wednesday

He told the BBC: "He nurtured, or probably a better word is 'groomed', me. That went on for a number of years.

"His behaviour towards me became more and more inappropriate."

Mr Sawyer knew he wanted to become a Church of England priest.

He said: "The abuse, for want of a better word, started with very heavy suggestions that I remove my clothes and be completely naked in front of him.

"That developed into him trying to take my clothes off for me.

"He kept on saying that he was waiting for a real act of commitment from me to show that I was serious about being ordained.

"It was very clear to me that if I did not have sex with him I would not get ordained."

During his last term at university he decided not to seek ordination at that time.

Mr Sawyer said: "I just found his sexual advances and his intimidation so appalling that I decided that I had to get away.

"Bishop Peter Ball is a monster and should as a matter of justice be sent to jail for the rest of natural life."

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