Sussex

Clergy 'tried to cover up Bishop Peter Ball sex abuse'

Peter Ball arriving at the Old Bailey for sentencing Image copyright PA
Image caption Peter Ball was jailed for a string of offences against teenagers and young men

Evidence suggesting senior clergy tried to cover up sex abuse by an Anglican bishop has been uncovered by the BBC.

Two figures in the church raised concerns about Peter Ball but were urged to keep quiet or saw no action taken, it has emerged.

And a couple who worked for now-jailed Ball, former bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester, said they also tried to raise concerns but were ignored.

Ball's offending is the subject of an independent review and a national inquiry is looking at Church abuse.

The retired bishop was jailed in October for a string of offences against teenagers and young men.

'Church did nothing'

Cliff James said he told a member of clergy in 1992 that Ball had abused him.

But he said the person later received phone calls from three bishops who urged her to make sure he and another alleged victim did not talk to police or the media.

Mr James, who waived his right to anonymity after Ball admitted assaults against him, believes senior clergy were more concerned with the Church's reputation than the victims.

Another person in the church who helped one of Ball's victims said they tried to raise concerns with 13 different bishops who appeared to take no action.

Michael and Christine Moss, who worked as Ball's gardener and housekeeper in Gloucester, said they tried to raise concerns with bishops but were ignored.

Mr Moss said: "What upsets me so much is the Church did nothing."

BBC South East's special correspondent Colin Campbell said he discovered three police forces sought access to correspondence and files about Ball held by the Church over 20 years, but an investigation only began in 2012 when Sussex Police gained information from Lambeth Palace.

In October, the BBC correspondent asked the Bishop of Chichester Dr Martin Warner whether he would consider it to be a cover-up if a bishop urged a member of clergy who was in contact with an abuse victim to stay quiet.

Bishop Martin replied: "Yes I would and by today's standards, in terms of our practice today, that would immediately be the trigger for disciplinary action."

Church safeguarding adviser Edi Carmi said while she could not evaluate the veracity of the BBC's information, it pointed to "people in the Church who didn't inform the police of allegations and did not encourage people abused or alleging abuse to talk and it seems discouraged it".

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched an independent review into abuse by Ball.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is also investigating abuse within the Anglican Church.

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