Detectives investigating complaints of sexual abuse in the Church of England have arrested a retired bishop on suspicion of eight sexual offences against eight boys and young men ranging in age from 12 to early 20s.
Officers from the Sussex police serious crime directorate involved in a six-month investigation into historic allegations at the diocese of Chichester arrested the Rt Rev Peter Ball, former bishop of Lewes and later bishop of Gloucester, on Tuesday morning at his home address near Landport, Somerset.
Ball is thought to be the most senior figure in the church to be arrested in connection with a sex abuse investigation. The bishop, now 80, has connections to Prince Charles, whom he has described in the past as “a loyal friend”.
Police also arrested a 67-year old retired priest at his home address near Haywards Heath on suspicion of two separate sexual offences against two teenage boys in East Sussex between 1981 and 1983.
Detectives carried out a “comprehensive and painstaking” three-month analysis of two reports from Lambeth Palace, “which contain reviews of church files relating to certain child safeguarding issues within the Chichester diocese from between 20 and 25 years ago”. They also reviewed internal church files containing details of clergymen’s careers in the diocese, including Ball’s.
A spokeswoman for a group representing the survivors of abuse by clergy said the arrests were “historic in terms of the seniority of the people being looked at“. “This is the first bishop we have seen arrested over abuse allegations,” said Ann Lawrence, of the Ministry and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors Group…
Overdue, of course. That portion of any investigation must not be overlooked in the prosecution of the charges currently laid at the Bishop’s feet. When all is over and done – someone needs to determine how and why this took decades to come to police attention.