BBC News

Church of England inquiry into Sussex abuse bishop

By Colin Campbell
BBC South East Home Affairs Correspondent

image captionThe bishop resigned in 1993 after receiving a police caution

The Church of England has carried out an investigation into a former Sussex bishop, the BBC has learnt.

The Right Reverend Bishop Peter Ball resigned in 1993 after receiving a police caution for committing an act of gross indecency against a teenager.

Files kept at Lambeth Palace about the former Bishop of Lewes are being scrutinised by police.

A Church of England spokesman said the church had instigated a review of the files and could not comment further.

A church spokesman said: "At our instigation a former police officer, now a safeguarding adviser, has undertaken a review of all files relating to a retired bishop.

"On the basis of the findings, this review has now been forwarded to Sussex Police.

"We cannot comment further at this stage while the police are conducting their inquiries and processing the information."

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: "Over the past 10 days we have received from Lambeth Palace two reports from a Church safeguarding consultant, which contain reviews of Church safeguarding files relating to historic issues in the Chichester Diocese. We have also received the files themselves.

"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."

'First step'

Ann Lawrence, from the sexual abuse survivors group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said it was "a major first step" for the Church of England.

Neil Todd, a victim of the bishop who waived his anonymity to give an interview to the BBC, said: "It is an investigation which to be honest is well overdue."

Mr Todd, who first met Bishop Ball at the age of 16 and was abused while he was a trainee monk, said: "It 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."

Speaking from his home in Australia, he said: "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."

He added: "It took a long time for people to be convinced the events that actually took place actually took place."

And he said: "When it came to the abuse, the abuse was sexual, mental and physical. He was just not a very nice human being."

After his resignation, Bishop Ball, who is now 80, was given permission to officiate by the Church and he continued working in churches until 2010.

A spokesman for Bishop Ball said the clergyman would not be making a comment.

media captionA dossier of information about The Right Reverend Bishop Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Lewes, has been passed to Sussex Police