Church of England child sex abuse: Sussex failings found / “Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry finds”
THE Church of England failed to protect children from sexual abusers in Sussex, an inquiry has found.
An independent inquiry into child sex abuse within the Church looked at the conduct of former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball and former Bishop of Chichester George Bell.
It found the Church fostered a culture where sexual predators could “hide” – and got more support than victims of sexual abuse.
The inquiry found that 390 clergy have been convicted since 1940.
Last year there were 2,500 safeguarding concerns raised and 449 allegations reported.
Photo: Former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball
It had investigated claims against figures in Sussex, which is part of the Diocese of Chichester.
Victim Philip Johnson, from Eastbourne, was a victim of Bishop Peter Ball in 1978.
Ball admitted abusing 18 young men between 1977 and 1992 and was jailed in 2015. He died last year aged 87.
Mr Johnson previously agreed to waive his right to anonymity and said the inquiry has taken a step in the right direction.
He said there is a need for more independent oversight and safeguarding and a need for more thorough support for victims and survivors.
Photo: Philip Johnson has spoken out about the abuse
In 2015, following Ball’s conviction, the then Detective Chief Inspector Carywn Hughes described how Bishop Ball had abused 12 victims at his home in Litlington near Lewes over many years.
The DCI said: “It became clear that under the guise of his status as a Bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom were aspiring priests, while others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality.
“He abused that trust and used religion, through his Give A Year For Christ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.”
Ball was guilty of misconduct in a public office and sexual assault.
He admitted misusing his position in authority between 1977 and 1992 “to manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification” in relation to 16 young men.
He also admitted indecently assaulting two men in their late teens between 1980 and 1983 and between 1990 and 1991.
Ball was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 until his resignation the following year.
Read more on this story:
- Fresh material given to police in Bishop of Chichester George Bell case
- Vicar gets award for helping to expose sex abuse within Church
- Phil Johnson speaks out after former Bishop Peter Ball’s conviction for sex abuse
The inquiry found that public support was often given to clergy like Ball by the Church of England, regardless of the evidence against them.
Bishop George Bell was the wartime Bishop of Chichester.
A victim, who The Argus previously referred to as Carol to protect her identity, said she was five years old when he molested her.
She also explained she had informed the Church of the abuse in 1995, and again in 2012, and again in 2013 – at which time Archbishop Justin Welby saw to it her complaint was fully investigated.
In October 2015, the Church issued a £16,000 payout and an apology for the way the complaint had been dealt with.
Inquiry chairwoman Professor Alexis Jay said: “Over many decades, the Church of England failed to protect children and young people from sexual abusers, instead facilitating a culture where perpetrators could hide and victims faced barriers to disclosure that many could not overcome.
Photo: Professor Alexis Jay chaired the inquiry
“To ensure the right action is taken in future, it’s essential that the importance of protecting children from abhorrent sexual abuse is continuously reinforced.
“If real and lasting changes are to be made, it’s vital that the Church improves the way it responds to allegations from victims and survivors, and provides proper support for those victims over time.
“The panel and I hope that this report and its recommendations will support these changes to ensure these failures never happen again.”
Photo: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
The current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologised for church failings and said he felt “ashamed”.
He said the failings revealed were “profoundly and deeply shocking”.
LETTER TO THE ARGUS – OCTOBER 8 2020
Dear Aidan Barlow
As the Argus crime reporter, would you please maintain your journalistic integrity by amending your surprisingly sloppy piece of journalism [“Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry found”, Argus, Oct 8].
There is a distortion of facts, and therefore truth, if the case of the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell is confused – deliberately or otherwise – with the case of ex-Bishop Peter Ball.
Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law.
George Bell was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.
I would urge you to amend your article accordingly.
Richard W. Symonds
2 Lychgate Cottages Ifield Street, Ifield Village Crawley, West Sussex RH11 0NN
Tel: 07540 309592 [Text only – Very deaf] Email: email@example.com
Here is an example of sloppy journalism which damages truth and justice for those victims and survivors of abuse, and those victims and survivors falsely accused of abuse.
When reading the Argus article, be aware that ex-Bishop Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law, while wartime Bishop of Chichester was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.
I look forward to the Church of England Comms correcting this media sloppiness – just as I look forward to flying pigs getting landing rights here at Gatwick.
I agree with you that Aidan Barlow’s report is sloppy. It is more than that: it is reprehensible and Bishop Bell would have grounds to sue the Argus for damages for defamation were he still alive.
The report does not say in terms that Bell was guilty of abusing ‘Carol’, but that is the clear inference from referring to her as a ‘victim’ (rather than as complainant or claimant) and the £16,000 ‘payout’ by the Church, without making any reference to the subsequent investigation and Review by Lord Carlile.
The article contains a link (Read more on this story: Fresh material given to police in Bishop of Chichester George Bell case) to the report by Joel Adams in the Argus on 31 January 2018 referring to the ‘information’ received following publication of the Carlile Review in December 2017. At least that report includes an accurate summary of the conclusions of Lord Carlile QC (though wrongly elevating his status by calling him a ‘Law Lord’!) and refers to Carol as ‘the alleged victim’ (emphasis added), but this does little to correct the position when there is no reference in the current report to the subsequent Sussex police statement (in March 2018) “The matter is now closed as far as Sussex Police are concerned and the Church of England have been informed of this” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/22/bishop-george-bell-abuse-investigation-dropped-sussex-police/amp/; https://virtueonline.org/uk-bishop-george-bell-investigation-dropped-sussex-police) nor to the Briden report, dated 17 January 2019, finding the new allegations to be “unfounded”: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2019/1-february/news/uk/archbishop-welby-apologises-for-mistakes-in-case-of-george-bell.
The IICSA report published on 6 October 2020 does refer to the Bell case on pages 70-71, but (I would suggest) in a disingenuous way, leaving the innuendo that Bell might have been guilty of the abuse alleged.
First, on page 70, it records criticisms of Lord Carlile’s report voiced in evidence by Ecclesiastical (EIO) claims director David Bonehill (a witness who had to be recalled on 12 July 2019 to correct misleading evidence given earlier). The report makes no comment on those criticisms and, so far as I am aware, Lord Carlile was not asked for his response to them.
Second, at page 71, para 39, the IICSA report states simply in respect of ‘the second George Bell case’: “Mr Briden concluded that no further allegations were proven on the balance of probabilities.” The footnote reference (footnote 578) is not a reference to Mr Briden’s report but to inquiry document ACE027643_138-142. |This is pages 138 to 142 of Graham Tilby’s witness statement dated 14 June 2019 in which (at para 348) he purports to summarise Timothy Briden’s conclusions. His first bullet point states simply, “Alison’s complaint was not considered to be proved on the balance of probabilities”, omitting Mr Briden’s reason, namely “her evidence being unverified by independent sources and her account unreliable.” Likewise, Mr Tilby’s second bullet point states “The incident described by witness K was not considered proved on the balance of probabilities”, omitting Mr Briden’s reason, “the hearsay account being inherently unconvincing and without corroboration.” (See Appendix III). Further, Mr Tilby makes no reference to Mr Briden’s overarching conclusion at his para 43: “Concentrating exclusively on the allegations remitted to me, I have decided that they are unfounded.” (emphasis added).
I should add, for the sake of accuracy, that Lord Carlile did not find Bishop Bell ‘not guilty’ of the abuse alleged by Carol as his terms of reference precluded him from doing so (see paras 9, 10 and 258 of his Review), but reading between the lines of his criticisms of the flawed core group investigation, it is pretty clear that that is his (unstated) view.
In view of what I have set out above, I am copying this e-mail, inter alios, to Alex Carlile.
David Lamming – General Synod member
General Synod member David Lamming has called this sloppy piece of journalism by the Brighton Argus as “reprehensible” – but it represents a part of the media which is beyond ignorant – and dangerously distorts the truth – deliberately or otherwise.
There needs to be pastoral care and support, not just for the victims and survivors of abuse, but also the victims and survivors of those falsely accused of abuse.
COMPLAINT TO ARRON HENDY – ARGUS EDITOR
Dear Arron Hendy
Please register this as a formal complaint – one of accuracy [lack of] due to poor research by a professional journalist.
If this complaint is not dealt with by the end of today (Friday October 9 2020), I will formally complain to IPSO.
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published.
Richard W. Symonds
2 Lychgate Cottages Ifield Street Ifield Village Crawley West Sussex RH11 0NN
Tel: 07540 309592 (Text only please) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Argus (Brighton) (Newsquest Media Group)
“Church’s child sex abuse shame” [Hard Copy] + Church of England child sex abuse: Sussex failings found / “Church ‘failed to protect children from abusers’, inquiry finds” [Online], date of article 08/10/2020
The integrity of the professional journalist concerned is questioned with an inaccurate, poorly researched and sloppy piece of journalism.
There is a distortion of facts, and therefore truth and justice, if the case of the wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell is confused – deliberately or otherwise – with the case of ex-Bishop Peter Ball.
Peter Ball was found guilty in a criminal court of law. George Bell was found not guilty by two separate investigations by Lord Alex Carlile QC and Timothy Briden – both commissioned by the Church.
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Richard W. Symonds
07540309592 [Text only – Very deaf]