AN ALLEGED victim of former bishop Peter Ball says he has been “denied justice” now his case will not be heard in court – even as the clergyman finally admitted sexually abusing 18 young men.

Phil Johnson waived his anonymity to speak out after prosecutors accepted the former Lewes bishop’s guilty pleas on most counts, bu left Mr Johnson’s and another man’s allegations to lie on file.

The 49-year-old, from Eastbourne, who said he was indecently assaulted by Ball in 1978, which Ball denies, said: “I have been pursuing this for nearly 20 years and never has my experience been told in open court.

“Throughout the two decades since the original disclosures, none of the allegations has been tested or fully examined. At every turn there have been deals and cover-ups.”

On Tuesday, two decades of investigations and negotiations – including a phonecall from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the chief prosecutor behind the case were revealed after reporting restrictions were lifted at the Old Bailey.

In 1993, Ball was cautioned for sexual assault despite prosecutors saying they had “sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence”, and resigned from his job.

Sussex Police opened a new case in 2012 after the Church of England reviewed files, and new victims came forward. One of his victims, Neil Todd, killed himself in 2012.

Prosecutors said yesterday the decision to leave the other two cases on file was “very difficult and finely balanced”.

Speaking to The Argus, Mr Johnson, from Eastbourne, said: “It seems utterly ridiculous to me that these latest deals were done and I think the motivation is to save public money.

“We were scheduled to have a 10-week trial at the Old Bailey which would have cost millions, this way they can have a sentencing hearing which costs in the thousands.”

He added: “Once again I find myself in a position where I do not get to tell my story in court; once again I feel that myself, Neil and the other complainant in this case are being silenced and denied justice.”

The Argus: Phil Johnson

Ball had been due to stand trial in a few weeks’ time, despite ill-health, but on Tuesday pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office and sexual assault. He admitted misusing his position in authority between 1977 and 1992 “to manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification” in relation to 16 young men.

He also admitted indecently assaulting two men in their late teens between 1980 and 1983 and between 1990 and 1991.

Ball was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 until his resignation the following year.

The two counts left to lie on file, of indecent assault on a boy of 12 or 13 and a 15-year-old youth, were denied.

Charges are allowed to lie on file when the judge agrees there is enough evidence for a case to be made but it is not in the public interest to proceed.

Prosecutors said they “worked extremely hard to overcome a number of complex legal challenges to gain the convictions.”

They added: “We acknowledge the disappointment of those complainants whose allegations are not going to trial.”

Cambridge-educated Ball, who now lives in Langport, Somerset, appeared frail and falteringly entered his pleas via video link from Taunton Crown Court.


THE Bishop sexually abused young men as far back as 1977, but it would be more than 30 years before he was convicted and his crimes revealed to the public.

Behind his falteringly “guilty” admission via video link on Tuesday, lay extraordinary high-level discussions between state authorities and the church, police investigations spanning continents, legal battles, and a caution that many feel should never have been allowed.

In 1993, Neil Todd, a young man in his care, accused the bishop of sexually assaulting him, leading to what prosecutors deemed “sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence” for a case of gross indecency and indecent assault.

Despite that and Gloucestershire police knowing of other complaints, Ball was allowed to accept a caution and resign his job, relieved it was “all over”.

He later recalled in court: “After I took the caution, I asked very clearly ‘Does this include all other offences of the same nature?’ and I was told very clearly that it did.

“I can remember so clearly, I was so glad to get away – to get a guarantee that it was all over.

“That was the last words of the police officer – ‘Bishop, it’s all over’.”

He added: “I was so pleased I went like a rocket down to Cornwall to my brother.”

Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, appeared to back up his claim in his recollections of the incident which were read out in court.

He said he was “troubled” to hear of Ball’s caution and feared things would “reignite” if other allegations of past indecency were made.

In recollections read out to court, he added: “I was so troubled, that evening after dinner I went to my study.

“I was supplied with a number of a man at the CPS I believed to be a director. I do not recall his name.

“I rang him and asked what might happen if allegations from the past were made.

“I was told quite categorically that the other allegations would not be taken further as far as we are concerned.”

It was Ball’s own barrister, Richard Smith QC, who suggested that prosecutors may have settled on the caution to avoid the publicity of a bishop in the dock after discussion “behind closed doors”.

Whatever the reason, the bishop lived undisturbed for the next nearly 20 years, even exploring the possibility of going back to work.

Then in 2012 a Church of England review led to a retired police officer working at Lambeth Palace finding files there containing allegations of abuse.

She passed them on to Sussex Police, whose officers spent years tracking down alleged victims around the world to bring the case to trial.

Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes, of Sussex Police, said 12 of the victims had come forward since the investigation was launched, detailing abuse at Ball’s home in Litlington, near Lewes.

“It became clear,” the DCI said this week, “that under the guise of his status as a Bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality.

“He abused that trust and used religion, through his Give A Year For Christ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.”

Prosecutors charged Ball with misconduct in a public office relating to the abuse of 16 young men, the first time such a charge has been successfully used in such a case, and a potentially important precedent for the church.

Ball’s lawyers unsuccessfully tried to get the case thrown out, first arguing both the defendant and Lord Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, had been assured there would be no further charges in 1993.

They then argued that a bishop was not a public official in the legal sense, and that he was too ill to stand trial.

Old Bailey judges dismissed all those arguments, and so on Tuesday, after much back and forth between lawyers, the Cambridge-educated clergyman admitted to two counts of indecent assault and one charge of misconduct in public office. Frail and faltering, he appeared via video-link from his home in Somerset.

Yet in denying two charges of sexual abuse that have been left on file, he leaves a lingering sense of injustice for some of his victims.

Phil Johnson, one of the complainants whose case was left on file, said he planned to meet with prosecutors next week and is continuing to speak out about his case.

Prosecutors, for their part, said they “acknowledged the disappointment of those complainants whose allegations are not going to trial.”

They added: “This was a very difficult and finely balanced decision to which a great deal of thought was given. We believe this was the right decision for this case.”

The man who made the complaint in 1993, Neil Todd, killed himself in 2012.

He will be sentenced on October 7.