Reviewer of child sex abuse by clergy ‘not shown key documents’, inquiry hears

An independent reviewer of child sex abuse by Church of England clergy was not shown documents that may have shed light on previous offending, an inquiry heard.

Roger Meekings, who carried out a 2009 past case review for the Diocese of Chichester, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse that information about clergy who were later jailed had not been in their personnel files.

They included former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball (pictured) and Canon Gordon Rideout, both of whom were later imprisoned.

He told the London hearing into abuse in the Anglican church that the so-called “blue files” on staff were also often missing Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check data.

He said he had been told “the previous bishop had a habit of ‘filleting’ the blue files”.

Public hearings are taking place this week to examine how the religious order handled paedophilia allegations stretching back to the 1950s, first focusing on Chichester.

Such sexual abuse may have thrived in the Anglican church due to an “excessive emphasis” on forgiving offenders in its ranks, the inquiry earlier heard.

Ball was jailed for 32 months in 2015 for abusing boys. But 22 years previously, in 1993, he was investigated and let off with a caution for gross indecency by police after abusing a trainee monk.

The inquiry heard that a 470-page correspondence file on Ball existed.

But Mr Meekings, a former social worker and ex-head of children’s services in East Sussex, said that although it had run to 290 pages at the time of his reports, what he had been shown had not been “anywhere near” that large.

It included a letter written by Rev Brian Tyler, a former police officer, after the 1993 arrest.

In the letter, the inquiry heard on Thursday, Mr Tyler said: “Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion he (Ball) has been involved in not only abusing his office but even young men who passed through his care.

“He desperately needs help.”

Asked whether he would have acted differently if he had seen the letter, Mr Meekings told the inquiry: “My conclusion was that action needed to be taken.

“But I think I would have given a heightened action to it, perhaps a flashing red light around it.”

He was also asked about the file he reviewed on Rideout, who was jailed for 10 years after he abused more than a dozen girls and boys at a now closed Barnardo’s home in Crawley, West Sussex, over a four-year period.

Mr Meekings told the inquiry: “I have a memory of receiving it, and there having been nothing of concern in it.”

Canon Ian Gibson, who was the Bishop of Chichester’s chief of staff and “gatekeeper” of the blue files from 2004 to 2013, denied they had been edited before Mr Meekings had reviewed them

He told the inquiry that the personnel file on Ball, a bishop, would have been kept at Lambeth Palace in London rather than held locally.

The file on Ball that was shared contained items like newspaper cuttings regarding his prior arrest and was put together by Rt Rev Eric Kemp, Bishop of Chichester until 2001, the canon said.

It was found in a filing cabinet “just outside the palace door”, Canon Gibson said.

Asked whether material like the Tyler letter had been removed, he replied: “I can’t see how that could have been.

“I’m almost certain because that file was never tampered with, if that is the accusation.”

He added that he had reviewed the file in 2012 and the Tyler material had been in it.

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