Witness Name: The Reverend Nick Flint
Statement No.: 1
Dated: 24 May 2018
INDEPENDENT INQUIRY CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Witness Statement of The Reverend Nick Flint
I, Nicholas Angus Flint, will say as follows:-
1. I make this statement in connection with the Inquiry’s Anglican Church investigation and in particular the Peter Ball case study.
2. I am currently the Rector of Rusper, which is a village in West Sussex. I have been in this role for 21 years.
3. I attended Chichester Theological College from 1984-1987. Then, from 1987-1991, I was in training in Aldwick, in Sussex. In the early 1990s, I was the Bishop of London’s assistant chaplain for homeless people. Immediately prior to my current role as Rector, I held a position as Team Vicar of Bewbush, in Crawley, for 5 years. I have been ordained for 31 years.
Statement given to Brian Tyler
4. I have been shown a copy of the statement that I gave to Brian Tyler, dated 29 December 1992, which is referred to as CPS000796. Brian Tyler was a retired police officer conducting an investigation relating to Peter Ball. I confirm that the statement is a true and accurate record of what I said to Brian Tyler at that time and in that particular context. However re reading it in May 2018 for the first time in more than 25 years it strikes me that my comments are a response to a series of closed questions and that overall the document reflects at best a lack of understanding and experience of homosexuality, at worst a borderline homophobia, from which I would now distance myself and wholly and utterly refute. Historically, homosexuality has had to be closeted in secrecy and that very secrecy has been a cloak for unacceptable behaviour. Part of the remedy for this must be for the church to be open and accepting of homosexuality, rather than continue to scapegoat homosexuals as being the problem.
Statement given to the Independent Peter Ball Review
5. On 9 June 2016, I spoke to Kevin Harrington, a member of the Independent Peter Ball Review team (the ‘Review’). I have been shown a copy of the note of the meeting, which is referred to as INQ000633. I confirm that this is an accurate summary of the meeting.
6. At the meeting, I read aloud a statement which I had prepared in advance. I have been shown a copy of this statement, which is referred to as INQ000632. I confirm that the statement was true and accurate at that time. However, since the publication of Dame Moira Gibb’s report in June 2017, I have become aware of additional information about Peter Ball and can no longer hold all of the views I expressed in my statement at INQ000632.
7. I read Dame Moira’s report shortly after it was published. I broadly accept her findings. However I did contact the Review team with deep concern when I realised that it drew substantially on the comments [unreliable in my view] of James Francis AKA Mr A. [see below at 9]
8. In 1993, Peter Ball accepted a caution and in 2015, he pleaded guilty prior to a trial. Although I had accepted at that point that Peter Ball was guilty, I was not fully aware of the extent of his offending behaviour. Dame Moira’s report revealed to me for the first time the extent and serious nature of Peter Ball’s offending, but also crucially how much was known by many other people and how early on they had become aware of this information.
9. At the outset of Sussex Police’s investigation in 2012, I made myself known to them. I was brushed off by the Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Carwyn Hughes. I had information about sexual and other offending by James Francis, but the police did not want to speak to me about him. At the time of Peter Ball’s resignation from Gloucester [1993 – Ed], the Archbishop as well as the Bishops of Chichester, London and Southwark were all aware of his [James Francis or Peter Ball? – Ed] immoral and illegal activity. I had forensic knowledge of the layout and occupancy of the house where Peter Ball’s offences were alleged to have taken place but this offer of help was peremptorily dismissed.
10. Shortly after [2012? – Ed], I wrote to the Bishop of Chichester [became Bishop in 2012 – Ed], Martin Warner. I provided him with information about James Francis. The response that I received was disappointing . [Letters attached.] It seems that Bishop Warner did not pass on the information to the police. I have made enquiries of the Diocese and Lambeth Palace to find out whether Bishop Warner did pass on the information to the police, but I have not received any clear answers. I gave this information face to face to Bishop Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham who subsequently told me had been personally ‘warned off’ investigating Francis.
11. In or around June 2016, I was contacted by the Metropolitan Police Service (‘MPS’) and interviewed in connection with James Francis. The MPS had only contacted me by chance and because I was still in contact with one of his victims, not through the agency of Bishop Warner despite his knowing I had ‘useful’ information. James Francis had been arrested and the police wanted to gather information from my knowledge and experience of him. I relied to some extent on the information that I had learned from Bishop Eric Kemp, [I can provide two very brief letters he wrote at the time, if this is helpful] and I shared everything that I knew or thought I knew in my interview with the MPS. The puzzling question remained as to why despite the knowledge of several bishops of his activities which led to a significant delay in his ordination, did he yet go on to be ordained. [granted lesser sentence if he gave evidence against Ball reward for ‘shopping’ Peter Ball? – Ed]
12 In October 2015, I attended a meeting with Bishop Warner. I had arranged to see him so that I could discuss with him my frustration about not being able to move post within the Diocese. He advised me that he did not have anything for me in his diocese and that I should look in the Church Times as this was where other dioceses advertised their vacancies. The meeting took place shortly after Peter Ball had been sentenced and Vickery House was still on trial. It was therefore an additionally difficult time for me since Fr House was an old friend who had preached at my First Mass and at my wedding. After his arrest he had attended my church until this had been unilaterally halted by the intervention of Archdeacon Douglas McKittrick without reference either to me or the Police. In an email the Police stated they were happy for Fr House to continue attending my church. I sought to query this and my concern that a man at the time presumed innocent had been scared off by the Archdeacon but he ignored my messages and Bishop Warner did not offer a satisfactory explanation for that decision or lack of communication. I was struck at this meeting by the Bishop’s total absence of any regard for my well being. Indeed as far as I was concerned it was at this point he crossed the line from previous neglect to actual bullying. If he had read his notes before this meeting he would have known how vulnerable I was. Either he couldn’t be bothered to inform himself or he took advantage of my vulnerability. As well as my parish posts I have since 2002 been part of the Deliverance Ministry Team in Chichester Diocese. Members of this team are advisers to the bishops in the field of the paranormal. From this specialist background and experience I would identify what I see in the diocese as ‘occult activity’. By this I do not of course think that senior clergy are dabbling in arcane pagan rituals, but that they have been known to abuse power through knowledge, rather than modeling transparent holiness.
12. Before and since the Review [which Review? 2016 Harrington?], I have experienced little to no engagement from the Diocese of Chichester and Lambeth Palace. I contacted the latter in 2016 [James Francis arrested in 2016 but no publicity – protected by Church & Police because he ‘shopped’ Ball?]] as I was getting nowhere with my own diocese. The diocese did not encourage me to share my experience with Gibb [Gibb Report 2017]. Although I am not a direct victim in this case, I consider myself to be ‘collateral damage.’ By this I mean that since 2012 I have suffered undue anxiety, marked loss of confidence, even doubts about my priestly vocation and life purpose. I have experienced bizarre sleep walking behaviour and fears that as a key person in the Litlington community I might even be wrongfully arrested by the Police. I have found myself supporting others who identify as supporters of Peter Ball as well as those who consider themselves his victims. I have found myself supporting victims of Francis one of whom took his own life. In most cases neither of these groups have felt the way the church dealt with Peter Ball then and now has helped them. I have respected all their stories but holding such apparent opposites in tension has caused immense strain on me personally. I have felt silenced as I have had to listen to people who weren’t even there tell someone like me who was, what was going on at Litlington. My formative religious experience has been reduced to ‘ a cloak of fraudulent Christianity’, and if such is really the case I have been surprised that no bishop has required me to give account of my involvement in such a scenario. As recently as 2018 a senior member of Lambeth Safeguarding told me she ‘didn’t have time to talk with [me] or answer [my] difficult questions.’ I interpreted this as implying that as an employee of the church, an insider I should make allowances and hold back from criticism. As far as I am concerned this repeated and sustained attitude amounts to me being spiritually abused. I have been reduced to a condition where I do not believe I would now be fit to undergo interview for a new post. Why should Lambeth treat me as a second class complainant?
13. Essentially, I have felt senior churchmen would prefer it if I did not exist, as metaphorically I am neither black or white in my response to safeguarding failures and so challenge their panicked desire for a tidy response to the complex and unsettling reality. Their default position seems to be to sideline and talk loudly over my experience.
14. I was for over twenty years a public supporter of Peter Ball, but I now feel that I was set up as such by the Diocese of Chichester. There were opportunities where I think the Diocese should have spoken to me about Peter Ball but chose not to. I was not given the full truth. I feel betrayed by both the Church of England and the Diocese of Chichester. Recently Colin Perkins finally explained that he had not been at liberty to meet and talk with me because potentially both of us might have been witnesses in the case involving James Francis, yet he or someone else in the department could have told me this far earlier and pointed me in the direction of help. My decades of loyalty to Chichester, even if partially misguided, should have been reciprocated. In fact I feel I have been punished for trying to do the right thing and following my conscience.
15. I believe it is possible that I have been and continue to be discriminated against due to my previous association with and support of Peter Ball. I have put this suggestion to Archdeacon Philip Jones, a few times and he categorically denies it. However, I think it is the most likely explanation for the poor treatment that I have received, and I have often expressed myself open to a more plausible reason, but none has ever been offered. I would have been far happier and satisfied with an admission of incompetence than with the guilty silence that screams conspiracy. All I have sought is an open conversation on the matter, which might address that fear and if I am mistaken lay it to rest. Firmly in the Catholic tradition I work happily across the broad churchmanship spectrum and support the ordination of women and same sex marriage. Many of my tradition are allied to ‘The Society’ which according to its website requires the ‘submission’ of its members to the bishop. I find the language of submission deeply troubling and out of place. Modern bishops claim to themselves a management rather than pastoral model to their role. In what other organisation would someone have a line manager who hasn’t spoken to them since 2016? Archdeacon Jones did after some years apologise for not standing up for me when he witnessed Bishop Wallace Benn humiliate and bully me. His inability to do so at the time indicates the underlying culture of bullying of which even he was a victim. I can provide a document ‘I am Rev B’ which details much of the discrimination of which I am a victim and which I have shared with Lambeth Safeguarding.
15 In 2017 I sought legal advice from a solicitor’s firm. My concern related to appointments. Positions within the Diocese of Chichester are rarely openly advertised, and sometimes roles are handed out without the appropriate processes being followed. In October 2015 I did challenge Bishop Warner face to face on the lack of transparency I was witnessing specifically in relation to clergy appointments, but he made clear he did not accept this insight and would not discuss the matter.
I also sought to raise the same matter with Lambeth Safeguarding staff and a number of bishops on the basis that such transparency was a requirement of the Archbishops Visitation to Chichester. My offer of evidence to back this up was ignored and I have been passed from pillar to post with no one showing the slightest interest in taking any action. I was criticised by Lambeth Safeguarding for ‘talking to too many people’ but this was precisely because no one would offer consistent advice or take responsibility for my concerns.
On a personal note my CV is such that those outside Chichester diocese have had no hesitation in offering me interviews for posts in which I have shown an interest, while according to Warner my name had not even ever been considered for a single one within Chichester, where I have always made clear I wish to stay in Sussex for family reasons.
16 I witnessed the closing statement made on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council at the Inquiry’s Chichester hearing. They seemed to be saying that although they had got it wrong in the past they will do better in the future. I felt this was false. I do not think that they are doing better now, and I do not think that there is sufficient will to change the cultural attitude. The recent George Bell case shows the church not only doing things by its own rules but even trying to police the Police! Despite the abusive pressure I am still experiencing, I believe I have for the most part responded with graciousness yet firmness. I may have had occasional lapses into anger under the constant strain, but I would be happy for any independent body to have full access to all correspondence I have had in these matters in order to judge whether my words have in the circumstances been inappropriate. The church has had to face some painful truths. It now needs to be unflinching in proclaiming its core message of reconciliation and finding ways of putting that that into practice, otherwise it has no reason for continuing to even exist.
Statement of Truth
I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.
Signed: _________Nicholas Flint SMMS ________________________________
Dated: ____________24 May 2018___________
1992/3 – Ball resigns from Gloucester – “The Jimmy Savile of the Church of England – Ball conned and duped everyone – including Bishop Bell” – RWS
2012 – Flint provides Warner [and Police] with info about James Francis. Neither are interested, it seems.
2015 – James Francis alerts Police to the extent of Ball’s abuse. Ball pleads guilty. Flint was unaware of extent of Ball’s abuse. Flint close friend with Vickery House. Flint’s meeting with Warner.
2016 – Pre-Gibb Harrington police investigation. Flint approached by Police for information about James Francis. Francis arrested.
2017 – Gibb Report. Flint now fully aware of extent of Ball’s abuse. Gibb very reliant on the testimony of James Francis (who felt Francis was “unreliable” and said so]