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  1. ITV Report

Church of England 'colluded' to hide bishop's sexual abuse for years, report finds

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Penny Marshall

Sexual abuse by a bishop against young boys was hidden for years because the Church of England "colluded" to conceal it, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The finding by the Church was made in relation to Peter Ball, a former Bishop of Lewes who was jailed in 2015 after admitting a string of sex offences between 1977 and 1992.

In the Church review, entitled Abuse Of Faith, Ball was found to have caused "serious and enduring damage" to the lives of many men.

And it concluded that the Church helped to hide the long-term sexual abuse and showed little regard for the victims, while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said it had "colluded" with Ball to cover up his crimes.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, was also criticised in the report which accused his Church of being "most interested in protecting itself".

Ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey was also criticised. Credit: PA

During his time as bishop, Ball hand-picked 18 vulnerable victims to commit acts of "debasement" in the name of religion, such as praying naked at the altar and encouraging them to submit to beatings, his trial heard.

He was subsequently jailed for 32 months at the Old Bailey.

Published on Thursday, the review into the abuse stated: "Peter Ball betrayed his Church and abused individual followers of that Church.

"The Church at its most senior levels and over many years supported him unwisely and displayed little care for his victims.

"Much of what we have described took place in different times and should be viewed from that perspective.

"But such perverse and sustained abuse by a senior figure in the Church and the Church's failure to safeguard so many boys and young men still casts a long shadow."

Justin Welby said the report made for 'harrowing reading'. Credit: PA

The Most Rev Welby described the report as "harrowing reading".

"The Church colluded and concealed rather than seeking to help those who were brave enough to come forward," he said.

"This is inexcusable and shocking behaviour and, although Dame Moira notes that most of the events took place many years ago, and does not think that the Church now would conduct itself in the ways described, we can never be complacent; we must learn lessons."

The review added that Lambeth Palace's actions, especially in failing to pass on six letters of allegations to the police, while giving them one which was of "least concern" - "must give rise to a perception of deliberate concealment."

It also pointed out that the Church's management of those seven letters, containing allegations against Ball, is perhaps "its greatest failure in these events."

One of Ball's victims, Neil Todd, committed suicide in 2012.