Peter Ball – legislation, then and now (I)

Legislative and other changes, to 2018 and beyond

The public hearing of the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into the Peter Ball case study took place 23-27 July 2018; the IICSA investigated inter alia whether there were inappropriate attempts by people of prominence to interfere in the criminal justice process after he was first accused of child sexual offences. The transcripts of the proceedings and other documents are available here.

The hearing of this case study followed the earlier IICSA consideration of the experience of the Diocese of Chichester, 5-23 March 2018, where there had been multiple allegations of sexual abuse, and numerous investigations and reviews. Peter Ball was Bishop of Lewes from 1977 to 1992 and was translated to Gloucester in 1992, but resigned from his position in 1993 after admitting to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man and accepting a formal police caution.


During the preliminary hearing on 6 June 2018, counsel to the Inquiry, Fiona Scolding QC, outlined preparations for the July hearing including the current status of witness statements and the themes and issues that would be addressed. Issues specific to the granting of PTO to Peter Ball included:

[10]. Why Peter Ball was granted permission to officiate in various forms and was permitted to return to ministry, albeit in a partial and incomplete manner after his resignation, given his offending, and to explain and understand the circumstances in which such permission to officiate was granted, [page 28, line 22].

[12]. Whether or not a similar senior figure within the church would be treated in the same manner today and for similar reasons and, if not, why not, [page 29, line 8].

These two questions are discussed from the point of view of changes in statutory and ecclesiastical legislation, and other relevant procedures between 1993 and the present. This and a subsequent post consider the issues surrounding the appointment of Peter Ball as a diocesan bishop, and his subsequent Permission to Officiate (PTO). Part II discusses: the issue of a police caution and its implications; the sanctions applicable to bishops; misconduct in public office; and mandatory reporting. Part III will consider the closing statements, and work which is currently on-going.

A summary of the timeline of events is included at the end of this post.

Appointment of diocesan bishop

In his guest post Choosing diocesan bishops in the Church of England (July 2014), Peter Owen explains the present practice whereby the archbishop sends the two names to the Prime Minister, who asks the CNC’s first preference if he/she will accept nomination. An affirmative response triggers a medical and DBS check before the Queen is advised, and she formally nominates them to the See. If unable to accept nomination, the position is offered to the CNC’s second preference.

Evidence presented to the IICSA hearing indicated that this was not the case for nomination to the See of Gloucester in 1991; a memo from Sir Robin Catford, then Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary, advised Prime Minister John Major to select Peter Ball who was the second choice of the Crown Appointments Commission (CAC), [CAB000013].

David Lamming has commented “[d]espite the preference of the CAC … (by 8 votes to 4), Catford argued the case for appointing Ball, including that by appointing Ball to the see of Gloucester it would leave [redacted] [reference 1] available to be appointed to Bradford…”. David further notes that his understanding is that “both names submitted to the Prime Minister must have the support of two-thirds of the members of the CNC, with only a simple majority required to express a preference, and that this was also the position with the CAC”. He continues:

“Lord Carey was clearly shocked by the memo: ‘I find this very deeply disturbing. I didn’t know this was going on, so very clearly the secretary was influencing the mind of the Prime Minister and going beyond his responsibilities. I find this quite appalling’, (Day 2, 24 July 2018, page 46, line 24 to 47, line 3.) Fiona Scolding QC (counsel to the inquiry) called it ‘inappropriate political pressure to bear… upon the Prime Minister’. (page 50, lines 2-4).”

The alleged “inappropriate political pressure” also brings into question the veracity of other components of the statement by the PM’s Appointments Secretary, such as Archbishop Carey’s lack of personal preference for either of the two candidates.


With regard to the changes that have been made since the early 1990s:

  • The Prime Minister’s choice of bishop or archbishop has not been an issue since 2007 when Gordon Brown was PM; the first choice of the CNC is now always taken.
  • The present requirement of a DBS check before the monarch is advised provides an externally verified examination of a prospective bishop’s suitability.
  • The so-called “Sex Offenders Register” was not in place when Peter Ball was first cautioned in 1992, therefore CRB checks would not have revealed cautions made against him. The Sex Offenders Register was established by the Sex Offenders Act 1997 (amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003) but, normally, it is not retroactive.
  • there have been changes in the law since 1992 in relation to indecent assault, which then was dealt with under common law. Additionally, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 introduced a statutory definition of “consent”, [IICSA hearing on Day 4].
  • In July 2015, General Synod unanimously gave its final approval of the legislative changes to tighten up on safeguarding: Safeguarding and Clergy Discipline Measure 2016 and Canon C 30 Of Safeguarding. [To be discussed in Part II].

However, the issue remains as to why no concern was expressed at the PM’s choice of Ball against the view of the CAC, and the level of feedback available to the CAC/CNC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, then and now.

Permission to Officiate (PTO)

During the IICSA hearing there was a degree of confusion regarding the various permissions that had been granted to Peter Ball. These included, inter alia: the exchange between Ms Fiona Scolding and Dame Moira Gibb [Day 5, 27 July, page 125, line 11]; and in the questioning of Bishop Frank Sargeant by Ms McNeill [Day 4, 26 July, page 191, line 5] in relation to his statements to Dame Moira Gibb, and the grant of  what he referred to as the “archbishop’s provincial licence”.  Lord Carey dismissed this suggestion, and said [Day 2, 24 July, page 169, line 25 & seq.] [Emphasis added]:

“There is great confusion about this because there is no such thing as a provincial licence at all, and I don’t know how that language got into it. Of course, I was in charge of the province. That’s my responsibility…But it was up to the diocesan bishop to issue a PTO. I couldn’t do it for any other diocese than Canterbury.

Ms Scolding: So you issued it in Canterbury, but meaning it to apply simply to the two parishes [in the Diocese of Truro]?

Lord Carey: I think the reason why, Counsel, I was taking this line is that I didn’t feel it was Michael Ball’s — it wouldn’t be right for Michael Ball to make the decision, because he could do so as the diocesan Bishop of Truro“.

A copy of the permission granted to Peter Ball was presented as document ACE000982. This shows that Ball was granted permission to exercise his office as a priest

“to preach the word of God, perform Divine Service, and administer the Sacrament of Holy Communion within the parish of All Saints Falmouth and the Parish of Feock within the Diocese of Truro and Our Province of Canterbury …having first obtained the consent of the incumbents of the said parishes and of the Bishop of the said Diocese”.

Permission to officiate falls within the provisions of Canon C 8 Of ministers exercising their ministry. However, the wording of the Canon is not straightforward, and the Diocese of Bath and Wells (and other dioceses) have produced helpful guidance on the application of Canon C 8 to “Clergy who are visiting, who minister only occasionally, or on a one-off occasion”. This states that as a general rule, Canon C 8 §2 (a) provides that:

“a minister duly ordained priest or deacon… may officiate in any place only after receiving authority from the bishop of the diocese…”

The term “in any place” is otiose and is confusing unless read in conjunction with other parts of this canon; it is the PTO or Licence that will define the location to which authority is given, not the apparent generality of this phrase. A minister has the bishop’s authority to officiate only if he or she: [i] has been instituted by the bishop to a benefice; [ii] has received the bishop’s licence; or, [iii] has the bishop’s written permission to officiate (PTO). However, Canon C 8 sets out various exceptions to this general rule: for members of a cathedral chapter; for ministers with a provincial preacher’s licence [reference 2]; and for ministry on an irregular basis [reference 3].

With regard to the final point, Canon C 8 §2 (a) permits a minister to exercise ministry on an irregular basis [i.e. not more than seven days within three months] at the specific invitation of the incumbent [providing the minister is “of good life and standing and otherwise qualified under this Canon”] without seeking the bishop’s permission [reference 4].

This general exception does not apply to: ministers ordained overseas; or ministers ordained in a church the orders of which are recognised by the Church of England (including Anglican Communion churches), unless they have received the Archbishop’s permission to minister under Canon C 8 §5, under the provisions of the Overseas and Other Clergy (Ministry and Ordination) Measure 1967 as alluded to by Bishop Frank Sargeant, supra.

The Bath and Wells Guidance provides clear advice about what a minister without the bishop’s authorisation can and cannot do in specific situations, assuming that the general exception does not apply. It considers: consecrating and administering at Holy Communion; weddings; funerals; baptisms; officiating at the daily offices; preaching; only the last two are not specifically clerical functions, and marriage is additionally a legal function.


A new Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate (“the Policy”) was published on Friday 20 July by the Church of England’s House of Bishops Delegation Committee. This is a general policy document concerning the issue of PTO to clerics (priests and deacons as identified in Canon C8, para. [2.1]), although clearly it is of relevance to PTO granted to Peter Ball considered during the hearing, and more recently in relation to the grant of PTO to Lord Carey in the context of his handling of abuse cases.

In accordance with the recommendation in the Gibb Report, the new Policy indicates a national online register of all clergy who have the bishop’s authority to minister (whether on PTO, or licensed, or beneficed) is to be set up [11.4]; it also states that “regular processes will need to be put in place for checking and agreeing data between dioceses and the National Church Institutions and Crockford’s Clerical Directory” [11.6].

The Policy provides greater certainty with regard to the meaning of “due regard”, and what bishops and clergy “must”, “should”, “may” do, in the context of PTO and Licences. However, as written, it is applicable to clerics (priests and deacons as identified in Canon C8, para. [2.1]); no reference is made to retired bishops who are not acting as “assistant bishops” and therefore not acting under the vires of the diocesan. This lacuna is evident from the Bishop of Oxford’s statement on granting Lord Carey PTO in February 2018:

“When Lord Carey stepped down from his role as an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Oxford following the publication of the Gibb report in 2017 it also meant that he was no longer able to preside over services at his local church“.

Likewise, the PTO granted to the Rt Rev Peter Ball in 1995 referred to him exercising his office as a priest. The Bishop of Oxford’s statement further states [emphasis added]:

“There were no legal grounds for me to deny Lord Carey’s request for PTO in February this year as he was not subject to a disciplinary process, and there has never been any suggestion that he is himself a risk to children, young people or vulnerable adults“.

However, equally, there was no legal obligation to grant PTO to Lord Carey: according to the House of Bishops’ Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate, there was no obligation that PTO should be granted on request: “PTO is not granted as of right, however senior or experienced the cleric may be.” [2.10].

Revised  12 August 2018, 05:25. 


[1]. Though names are redacted in the Inquiry document CAB000013, it includes enough personal details which, with the assistance of the 1991 Edition of Crockford’s, it is possible to deduce the first name.

[2]. Canon C 8 §2(c) states; “Any minister who has a licence to preach throughout the province from the archbishop…may preach the Word of God in any diocese within that province or throughout England, as the case may be, without any further authority from the bishop thereof.”

[3]. Canon C 8 §4 states: “No minister who has such authority to exercise his ministry in any diocese shall do so therein in any place in which he has not the cure of souls without the permission of the minister having such cure, except at the homes of persons whose names are entered on the electoral roll of the parish which he serves and to the extent authorized by the Extra-Parochial Ministry Measure 1967, or in a university, college, school, hospital, or public or charitable institution in which he is licensed to officiate as provided by the said Measure and Canon B 41 or, in relation to funeral services, as provided by section 2 of the Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 1992 or in the case of a bishop’s mission order to the extent authorized by section 80(11) of the Mission and Pastoral Measure 2011, read with section 80(14) of that Measure.”

[4]. The Bath and Wells  guidance expands on “of good life and standing…” in paragraphs 5 to 9, which include a requirement re: safeguarding checks.

Timeline of events

The public hearing of the Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) into the Peter Ball case study took place 23-27 July 2018; the IICSA investigated inter alia whether there were inappropriate attempts by people of prominence to interfere in the criminal justice process after he was first accused of child sexual offences.

We reviewed this aspect of the IICSA investigation into the Church of England in a three-part post, Peter Ball – legislation, then and now: Part I of the post considered the issues surrounding the appointment of Peter Ball as a diocesan bishop and his subsequent Permission to Officiate (PTO); Part II looked at the issue of a police caution and its implications; the sanctions applicable to bishops; misconduct in public office; and mandatory reporting; and Part III considered the closing statements, and work which was then on-going.

A summary of the timeline of events was included in Part I, which has now been updated and is reproduced below. The information used was sourced from the Gibb Report, transcripts of the IICSA hearing, and elsewhere.

1977-1992: Peter Ball was suffragan bishop of Lewes, and became area bishop in 1984.

1992: Ball was translated to Diocesan Bishop of Gloucester, though he was not the first choice of the Crown Appointments Commission at its meeting in 1991, IICSA Document CAB000013.

1993: Ball resigned as Bishop of Gloucester in 1993 after admitting to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man and accepting a formal police caution. The circumstances associated with the issue of this caution were examined in the IICSA report, page 153. This triggered a significant number of letters in support of Ball.

1995: Ball was granted permission to officiate as a priest by Archbishop Carey for a period of three years at All Saints, Falmouth and in the Parish of Feock, both in the Diocese of Truro, subject to the consent of the incumbent and the bishop, IICSA Paper ACE000982.

The evidence of Bishop Frank Sargeant indicated that Ball was given “some form of ‘provincial permission’ relating to the Southern Province”, IICSA Public Hearing Transcript of 26 July, page 204, line 23 & seq.

2001: Consideration was given to Ball’s role in church by Lambeth Palace: there was acknowledgement that Ball had been taking school confirmations; Archbishop Carey to be informed “when he is to be involved in episcopal duties”. However these activities “did not accord with him being appointed as an assistant bishop”, IICSA Paper ACE026342.

2015: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, announced an independent review of the handling of Peter Ball case, (the Gibb Report), following Ball pleading guilty to charges, infra. Report and Comment here;

2015: On 7 October, Ball sentenced to 32 months for misconduct in public office and 15 months for indecent assaults, to run concurrently. Ball, then 83, had pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct in public office between 1977 and 1992, indecent assault on a boy aged 12 or 13 in 1978 and indecent assault on a man aged 19 or 20 between 1980 and 1982. Report and Comment here;

2015: Further charges of indecently assaulting two boys, aged 13 and 15, were allowed to lie on file in a contentious decision by the CPS. Guardian article, Tue 8 Sep 2015, here.

2017: February, Ball was released on licence.

2017: June, the Gibb Report, An Abuse of Faith – The Independent Peter Ball Review was published.

2017: June, Lord Carey resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Oxford at the request of the Archbishop of Canterbury, following strong criticism in the Gibb Report. Press Statement, Diocese of Oxford.

2018: February. The Diocese of Oxford granted Permission to Officiate (PTO) to George Carey “to preach and preside in the church where he worships, a church where his ministry is much valued”. Reported 13 July in The Guardian and Thinking Anglicans.

2018: 5 March. Government published its plans to strengthen information sharing as part of government’s ambition to tackle child abuse and neglect,  Government outlines strengthened plans to tackle child abuse but these reject mandatory reporting.

2018: 5-23 March, IICSA Public Hearings, Child Sexual Abuse in the Anglican Church.

2018: 6-10 June, Church of England General Synod.

2018: 20 July, House of Bishops Policy on Granting Permission to Officiate published.

2018: 23-27 July, IICSA Public Hearing – Peter Ball case study, as discussed above.

2018: 27 July, Lord Carey PTO: statement from the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, Bishop of Oxford.

2019: 9 May, IICSA Anglican Church Case Studies – Chichester, Peter Ball Investigation Report.

2019: 29 June, Church of England response to IICSA report.

2019: 1-12 July, IICSA Public Hearing in Anglican Church investigation – Week 1 and Week 2. The IICSA is expected to produce its report by summer 2020.

2019: 5-9 July, Church of England, General Synod at which mandatory reporting was discussed.

2020: 13-14 January, BBC2 two-part documentary Exposed: The Church’s Dark Secret, reported here.

Timeline updated 15 January 2020, 08:30

David Pocklington

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Peter Ball – legislation, then and now (I)" in Law & Religion UK, 8 August 2018,

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