An Establishment cover up: The sordid and sad saga of sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball

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Bishop Peter Ball at his trial . Pic Credit: BBC

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The Church of England has finally fully acknowledged the impact of the predatory sexual abuse committed by one of its most charismatic former bishops Peter Ball.

A forensic report by Dame Moira Gibb into both his activities and the cover up by the church  of his behaviour which reached the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, (now Lord Carey) to protect the Church’s reputation.

It is a grim story only coming light after the former Bishop of Gloucester was successfully prosecuted and jailed in 2015 after  a career  of physically and sexually abusing and exploiting  boys and young men, including some who were particularly vulnerable.

The report says : “He had used his position within the Church to identify those whom he then abused. and admitted two offences of indecent assault and a further offence of misconduct in public office.”

Tragically a young man, Neil Todd, who had first accused him in 1993  of abusing him in when he was 17 killed himself in 2012 when  Sussex Police re-opened an investigation when he was Bishop of Lewes.

Equally culpable, though not an abuser, is Michael Ball, his twin brother and former Bishop of Truro, who ran a campaign after his brother had been given a caution for abusing Todd in 1993 to rehabilitate him using every type of pressure he could find.

None of the authorities, with the exception of Sussex police, come out of this well, Neither the Church, Lambeth Palace, Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service. It is litany of failed responsibility among those in power and also the misuse of power and reputation to protect the powerful.

Peter Ball comes out of this report as a manipulative, sadomasochistic  predator who appears to have used every trick to entice young men from public schoolboys to priests and damaged and vulnerable youths coming to the Church  for his own sexual  gratification. It is not clear  even now at 85 whether he shows any remorse as he refused to co-operate with Dame Moira’s inquiry.

While on the surface being a charismatic leader he and his brother appear to have conned  the Establishment to cover up his  activity and the Establishment appear to have been prepared to do so.

The report reveals how he wanted to whip Neil Todd who was only saved by worried staff at the Bishop’s house who sent him away. He also got youths to strip off in the chapel so they could pray together in the nude and even used a ceremony to anoint a youth’s penis in some bizarre religious rite.

But  as bad is the 20 year cover up . This included dragging Prince Charles into Ball’s defence – by using his privileged access to Highgrove House – to claim, falsely, as an examination of letters between Ball  and the Prince show, that he supported his cause. According to the report even a commercial arrangement that allows Ball and his brother to rent a house off the Duchy of Cornwall was twisted to say this was a Royal favour.

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Lord Carey: Former archbishop of Canterbury Pic credit: BBC

Lord Carey emerges as a very weak character in this sorry saga. On the one level he is aware of Ball’s transgressions and tries to investigate, on another level he intervenes with the aim, whatever he says in a letter to Gloucestershire’s chief constable, to prevent a public trial of a Bishop by just issuing a caution. In the end this is done in return for his resignation as bishop. It is here that Gloucestershire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, which now admits its mistake, are totally at fault. Lord Carey also failed to pass on information to the police on people Ball abused and defended his reputation to the police.

Then after this ” escape from justice” he and his brother pursue a ruthless campaign to rehabilitate him  as a priest – which is successful. They demand  money from the archbishop to fund their expenses, insist on his reinstatement as  a priest in his brother’s parish  ( at one stage his brother actually threatens to do this without Lambeth Palace’s permission) and he even gets an honorary retired bishop’s post from the  Bishop of Chichester.

The report recommends a strengthening of safeguarding in the Church of England and will be considered by the independent child sex abuse inquiry. But what it doesn’t address – and it is outside its terms of reference – is the glaring issue of homosexuality in the Church.

To put it in its historic context these events take place when people who were homosexuals in public life often lived  a double life for fear of exposure in the press. This was the time when  David Atkinson, the Tory MP for Bournemouth East was publicly a happily married man with a wife and children while secretly leading a double gay life in the House of Commons.

It was also the time when Britain’s first successful black footballer, Justin Fashanu, led a troubled double life attracted to young men, which led to his suicide when the US law caught up with him.

One wonders whether if as now – when to be openly gay no longer is a problem  and gay marriage is acceptable  ( except to the Democratic Unionist party)  Ball could have had a stable relationship instead.  Or was he a predatory abuser anyway? This is not to excuse the Ball twins from the appalling sexual abuse and cover up that followed. But it suggests the Church has got to address a wider problem than just the abuse.

The full report is here.

 

 

How Romania’s inhumane prison system led to the tragic death of a campaigning newspaper owner

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Dan Adamescu who dies this week after falling seriously ill in an inhumane Romanian prison system.

 

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Earlier this month this blog covered the plight of Alexander Adamescu, the joint owner of Romania’s oldest newspaper, who is facing extradition from the UK on what are seen as trumped up charges of bribery using the European Arrest Warrant.

His father, Dan, who was the co-owner of Romania Libera, Romania’s oldest newspaper was in prison serving a four year sentence on similar charges and his family were planning to fight the state over the way they are trying to close down his companies.

Now tragically his father has died – after a short period in hospital – one of a large number of people who die every year because of the notorious nature of the Romanian prison regime.

 

His son Alexander states :“On January 24, right after midnight, Dan Adamescu, aged 68, died in a hospital in Bucharest, without having his family close to him. Sentenced on June 5, 2014 following a trial that relied on false testimonies, he was consecutively imprisoned in 3 penitentiaries, where his health status became increasingly serious. Hospitalized in his last months of his life – which he spent being intubated and in semi-inducted coma – the 15 diseases he had made his body become more and more weak, and the deadly blow was given by the pathogenic bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, with which he was contaminated in the inhuman conditions from the prison”

He mentions that his father went through difficult moments in the penitentiaries where he was imprisoned, given his health status.

“Jailed in unspeakable conditions in the Remand Center – 6 to 8 detainees in a cell of a few sq. m. at the basement, without closets, without room to move, with Turkish toilet – and not once, because of the atrophied muscles and of his ill knee, he felt I his own excrements – jailed for 23 of 24 hours – because he was allowed to go out for 1 hour, in the 30 sq. m. called “outdoor” (actually, a closed room of approx. 30 sq. m., having grids instead of the ceiling, extremely dirty) – he was moved later to the Rahova Penitentiary, where he shared a cell with 6 detainees, but because of his sharpened health status and of his inability to move, he remained permanently blocked in the cell.

Besides, for some bureaucratic reason, the treatment that he needed desperately wasn’t administered for 37 days, although medicines have been brought by my aunt, and his life was in real danger. Moving him to the Jilava Penitentiary was a new ordeal for my father… so he went from here to the Floreasca Emergency Clinical Hospital, directly in syncope; only after 10 days of medical care his vital functions have been restored, following a serious infection spread throughout his body” .

The issue of prison conditions in Romania- where nearly 500 people have died over the last five years often due to the lack of medical treatment –  has already been challenged in the High Court in London by the international human rights lawyer, Ben Emmerson ( who also represented Alexander Livenenko’s widow in the recent public inquiry into his poisoning by plutonium). He has taken up the cases of other people being extradited by the Romanians and the prison.

Romania’s cramped and unsanitary prison conditions mean that pre-trial detention has also become a kind of punishment. Prison standards are so bad that between 1998 and 2015, the European Court of Human Rights found Romania guilty of 178 violations of Article 3 of the ECHR prohibiting inhuman or degrading treatment. The court recorded 27 violations in 2015.

This sad end  to his father’s life strongly adds to the need for some action to stop the extradition of his son who blames the Romanian authorities for his early death.

 

2017: Year of the Death Star?

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2016 had little to recommend it. A string of deaths from Brian Rix to Carrie Fisher, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen plus the  first murder this century of a British MP, Jo Cox.

For me the election of Donald Trump and Brexit were bad news and  game changing decisions as well the miserable daily reporting of death and destruction in Syria and Yemen.

And if you add  increasingly unstable weather – flooding in Britain and hurricanes in Haiti – provides a further depressing background.

At home further cuts in public services and increasing pressure on the NHS and the near collapse of  Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse didn’t help either.

So what does 2017 offer? First of  all hopefully some clarity.

Over Brexit we are in a ” phoney war” situation – the decision has been taken but nothing has happened. Apart from the fall in the pound people have seen little change. We are still accepting changes in regulations from the EU but we are no longer such an active player.

The real picture will emerge in March  or April when we trigger Article 50 – and the meaningless mantra ” Brexit means Brexit” will have to be replaced by  real negotiation.

And then the real decision making by business will begin and the effects will become much clearer to the British people.  From what I gather the first move may well be  some banks moving their HQ’s out of the UK if we adopt ” hard Brexit”.

Theresa May will have to drop her “no running commentary” stance – because any journo worth his salt will be able to get Britain’s position from any of the 27 other countries involved in the negotiations.

The second big unknown is Donald Trump. If we take what he has said it looks as though  the US will come closer to Russia, take on China, blow up Isis and Iran, use nuclear weapons if necessary and restart the arms race. He is also a climate change sceptic, doesn’t believe he has to be briefed by the security services and has pioneered Twitter diplomacy – announcing his views on line – rather than using normal confidential diplomatic channels. If he continues like this he will make Wikileaks redundant as they won’t be any need for diplomatic secrets.

But the trend appears clear: more intolerance of other races, religions and gays rather than bringing people together. In other words,  in a stroke a dangerous world will become an even more dangerous place. Hence my Death Star warning.

What do  I hope for 2017 ?

A less aggressive and more tolerant Britain – that realises that cutting our links with Europe is self defeating.

A less dangerous world that perhaps leaves Trump realising that you can’t bulldoze your way ignoring the consequences and you can’t stigmatise an entire religion just because there are some fanatics – there are fanatics in all religions not least in the United States.

Finally in I hope the crippled child sex abuse inquiry gets its act together to do a proper job – to deal with a problem that the country wishes to ignore and is far more serious than most people realise..

A Happy New Year to you all.

 

 

 

 

 

Stop these nasty attacks on people living here now

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Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com

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During both the first and second world wars my family came under  suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or  Anglicising it  to something like Henkey.

The reason was that we were  at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently  anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.

Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen  for some time.

Frankly I blame  Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.

By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.

They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations  and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.

This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.

But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality  in a supermarket queue and telling  the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish  kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti  on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.

It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because  this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.

So what should  be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.

But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in  dynamic, prosperous, modern society  it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back  centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.

The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.

 

 

 

Is social media fuelling hatred and contempt in Britain?

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The late Jo Cox MP. Pic credit: BBC

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The killing of MP  Jo Cox has caused many people to pause and question whether political debate is becoming too callous and extreme because of the  way social media and Twitter in particular encourage polarised views.

Today’s Inforrm blog carries a very thoughtful article from Sharon Coen, a senior lecturer in media psychology at Salford University. Her article as you can see here is mainly framed about political debate.

However what she says says about politics can easily be extended to the way trolls treat women and survivors of child sex abuse.

As she says on politics: “The adversarial communication style we see in politics today is certainly counterproductive and polarises opinions. Disagreement is great and is at the heart of democracy. But, as political scientist Susan Bickford argues, it is only by really listening to other people’s positions, not just discarding them, that the democratic process can be successful. And – as in face to face interaction among politicians or televised debates – the internet has proved so bad at enabling people to listen to each other that there are now attempts to redesign the way we communicate online to make us better listeners.”

On social media she says:

“Social media …is a double-edged sword. On the positive side, it fosters political engagement both on and offline. For example, in a small (unpublished) study I conducted, I found that when people used the internet to debate and comment on news online, they were also more likely to be politically active in the real world. Again, this is in line with other research in the area.

“But (my emphasis in bold) social media also fosters polarisation. People tend to connect to like-minded people – and engage with content that reflects their pre-existing attitudes and beliefs. Social media focuses political debate even further around individuals who have active profiles on social media sites. It can effectively put a big neon target on them, attracting more personal abuse from those who disagree with them.”

She goes on:”The recent launch of the Reclaim the Internet campaign has highlighted the amount of abuse individuals (and women in particular) are subjected to online. The issues of cyberbullying and cybermisogyny are ones that deserve serious consideration for the negative impact they can have on the recipients of such abuse.”

In my view this aggressive stance by some people – often more aimed at women than men – is becoming particularly nasty with MPs like Jo Cox (before she was killed) and Jess Phillips, Mp for Birmingham, Yardley, being recent targets.

I am also thinking of child sex abuse survivors like Esther Baker – whose allegations are the current subject of a police investigation – who has suffered egregious abuse on line from people who claim not to beleive her.

It is time that these bullies and cowards put up and shut up. They should think before they tweet. Would they say  that to a person’s face in public? If not why say it on line behind some anonymous or not so anonymous twitter handle? Their actions also encourage  more hate and division but most of them are not man enough ( yes they are mostly men!) to stand up in public and say what they think.

The problem  is that this type of behaviour is beginning to have nasty consequences and turning this country into a nasty place to live.

 

Why all the UK should see this brilliant exhibition on the Calais Jungle

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Until June 22 there is an extraordinary exhibition of art, sculpture,photographs, documents, multi media  and sound on the Calais jungle migrant camp.. It is at the London Newcastle Arts Project Space in Shoreditch,London.

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An amazing sculpture at the entrance to the exhibition. It looks like a mass of people but each of them is an individual. A fitting symbol for the exhibition.

© Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen

The exhibition tells the story of the huge migration from the Middle East, Afghanistan, and North Africa to Calais and the people involved.It is probably the biggest issue in the whole of Europe today.

It is both a harrowing and uplifting showing the strength of the human spirit in the face of extreme adversity. There are evil people, neo Fascists,nasty people smugglers, and thugs who exploit and deride them  but there are also many ,many caring human beings who are prepared to help them on their way to a better, safer life.

What is extraordinary about this exhibition is that much of the art comes from the very people themselves as a way of expressing their own plight. And the squalid Jungle is  a place where people play music, dance, paint,cook,and create as well try to survive.

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These are the tents they livedin. Picture

© brandingbygarden.

 

Everyone who has any humanity should see this exhibition – especially the people who denigrate them as hordes or swarms of people. They are people like them. It is antidote to the crass debate on Brexit.

And denying them a safe haven is also denying our country the benefit of their enormous talents – many are highly educated and many have discovered new talents on the way. Worse the plight of unaccompanied children aged from 8 to 14 or 15 is something this country cannot ignore – and thanks to the efforts of Alf Dubs ( Lord Dubs) who pushed Theresa May, the home secretary, to allow them to come in – there is some hope  for a few now. But there needs to be more.

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These lifejackets were taken from the beach in Greece. Believe it or not the smugglers gave them fake lifejackets, they don’t float.

© brandingbygarden.

 

At a very moving reception where the organisers- through the Migration Museum Project – was attended by asylum seekers – and some who had managed to be smuggled into Britain. They mingled with students, artists and campaigners looking at the exhibits.

Museums and art centres in Britain you should thinking of staging this exhibition so the people  across the United Kingdom can see the whole story. How about some of you rising to the challenge.

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The sculpture as you enter the exhibition. © brandingbygarden.

Why are we waiting for Lady Macur’s Review into child sex abuse in North Wales?

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Why does a judge having meticulously completed a major report on failings in investigating historic child sexual abuse in North Wales want to redact her own findings?

This is the bizarre  question facing  Lady  Justice Macur who on December 15 last year handed in her final independent report to the Welsh Office and the Ministry of Justice. Yet only weeks later Caroline Dinenage, the junior minister at Ministry of Justice, told Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley, that the judge herself was recommending ” certain material  should be considered for redaction”.

She also disclosed that ” the report needs to be considered by law enforcement agencies and the government before it can be published. This includes considering whether redactions need to be  made”.

At the moment there is no date for publication – rather like the situation until last month surrounding  Dame Janet’s Smith’s report into Savile at the BBC which had been delayed for more than a year after being completed.

The report is particularly significant for survivors of child sexual and physical abuse in North Wales children’s homes. An inquiry  by Sir Ronald Waterhouse into the abuse of children in care in the former Gwynedd and Clwyd council areas of North Wales between 1974 and 1996 was supposed to get to the root of the problem and see perpetrators jailed.

But it is now obvious some 20 years later that it failed to do so as Operation Pallial under the National Crime Agency has brought many perpetrators to the courts where they have either been found guilty and imprisoned or not guilty and allowed to continue with their lives.

The review will examine some very important questions. Was the scope of the first review adequate or did the terms of reference allow people to escape justice? Did the North Wales police do an adequate job investigating these crimes? How did some people get away with abuse? What do the police, the authorities and the government need to do to prevent such a repetition?

Yet at least two Welsh MPs Ann Clwyd and Wrexham MP Ian Lucas are far from happy about the fresh delay – the inquiry was started four years ago.

Ann Clwyd is particularly sceptical as to why the government needs to scrutinise the report before it is published.

She points out in a letter to Caroline Dinenage that it is meant to be independent of government but now the government will decide when it will be published and what will be published.

She wants to know whether the government and law enforcement agencies have been set deadlines and who will take the decision to redact what material and why.

It may be with Operation Pallial still to bring some cases to court notably the trial of ex  North Wales police chief Gordon Angelsea whose case is not due to start until  September that some material may not be published to avoid prejudicing the trial.

However none of this has been made clear. The Wales Office and the Ministry of Justice need to get on with this – set a date for publication – or suspicions will grow that both departments have something to hide. They owe this to the survivors of these appalling cases in children’s homes in North Wales.