The Church of England has apologised unreservedly to victims of Peter Ball after the former bishop’s sentencing earlier today (October 7) for sexual offences.
In a statement, a spokesman said the trial had raised questions about the Church’s handling of the case - and he paid tribute to the work of detectives investigating the offences.
The Church confirmed it has initiated formal internal disciplinary procedures against Mr Ball and has commissioned an independent review of the way it had responded to the initial investigation.
Speaking for the church, Bishop Paul Butler said, “It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a Bishop in the Church of England has today been sentenced for a series of offences over 15 years against 18 young men known to him. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades.
“We apologise unreservedly to those survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse and pay tribute to their bravery in coming forward and also the long wait for justice that they have endured.
“We note that there are those whose cases remain on file for whom today will be a difficult day, not least in the light of the courage and persistence that they have demonstrated in pressing for the truth to be revealed.
“We also remember Neil Todd, whose bravery in 1992 enabled others to come forward but who took his own life before Peter Ball’s conviction or sentencing.
“As the Police have noted Peter Ball systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality. He also abused the trust placed in him by the Church and others, maintaining a campaign of innocence for decades until his final guilty plea only weeks ago. Since that plea was made processes in the Church have begun to initiate formal internal disciplinary procedures against Peter Ball.”
Commissioned by Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury, the independent review will examine the church’s cooperation with the police and other statutory agencies and the extent to which it shared information in a timely manner.
The review will also look at how the Church assessed the possible risk that Peter Ball might pose to others and responded to concerns and representations submitted by his victims.
The Archbishop has confirmed that the report of the review will include a detailed account of how the case was handled within the Church and will be available to the public.
Mr Butler said, “The Church of England always takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place.
“But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward with confidence that safeguarding procedures will be followed.
“Should anyone have further information or need to discuss the personal impact of this news the Church has worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline no. 0800 389 5344.”
For more information about today’s sentencing click here
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