Sussex victims suing Church of England after ex-priest is jailed

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The Church of England could potentially be sued for thousands of pounds by Sussex sex assault victims, it has emerged.

Following the jailing of former diocese priest Peter Ball last week, solicitor David Greenwood, representing some of his victims, said papers have been lodged with the Diocese of Chichester, which covers Chichester, Horsham, Brighton, Lewes and Hastings churches.

“On behalf of the victims, I think they will be relieved that the whole process of bringing him to justice in a criminal court is over,” he said. However, he said some victims were unhappy about being unable to give evidence in court about what happened to them.

“Certainly, a couple of the chaps that I spoke to were unhappy that they weren’t given the opportunity of telling their story in court and I think they want to continue to seek justice through the civil justice system.”

He said the victims were waiting for criminal proceedings to be concluded before going to the civil courts. They began the process after Ball pleaded guilty in September.

“I still firmly believe that there’s so much evidence that’s emerged from this investigation that the church will seriously consider settling these costs before they come to court,” he said.

He said there was a large range of what could be paid out, between a few thousand pounds and hundreds of thousands. He said a typical case of this sort would be between £30,000-£60,000.

Ball, 83, of Aller, Langport, Somerset, was sentenced to 32 months imprisonment on October 7 at the Old Bailey.

In September, Ball admitted to misconduct in public office, relating to manipulative behaviour, including several specific sexual offences, against 16 young men in their late teens or early twenties, mainly at an address where he then lived in Litlington, East Sussex, between 1977 and 1992, while he was Bishop of Lewes. He also admitted two offences of indecent assault on two boys in their late teens at Litlington, one in the late 1980’s and one in the early 1980’s.

The Crown Prosecution Service previously admitted it was ‘wrong’ to only caution Ball in 1993, following allegations of assaults.

The Bishop of Horsham, Mark Sowerby, who is bishop for safeguarding in the Diocese of Chichester, said: “The Diocese of Chichester joins others in the Church of England in expressing its abhorrence and deep regret at Peter Ball’s behaviour.

“We offer our sincere apology to all those affected by his actions – victims and their families. We have been working in close cooperation with Sussex Police as well as colleagues across the Church of England throughout this case. It has been a key priority to support many of those who have given evidence against Peter Ball. We remain determined to do everything possible to ensure our churches are safe places for all.”

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