Archbishop of Canterbury moves forward on inquiry into sex abuse bishop

Former bishop Peter Ball, 83, is currently in prison serving a 32-month sentence for sex offences.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed a woman who is an expert on government and safeguarding to head his independent inquiry into whether there was any kind of cover-up in the Church of England over sex abuse bishop Peter Ball.

Justin Welby, who last year disclosed the inquiry was to take place, has announced that Dame Moira Gibb is to chair the investigation into "the way the Church of England responded" to complaints about the disgraced former Bishop of Gloucester, jailed last year for a string of sex offences.

Dame Moira, former chief executive of Camden Council until 2011 and who chaired the serious case review into safeguarding at Southbank International School in the wake of the crimes committed by William Vahey, is expected to report before the end of this year.

The separate Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, chaired by Justice Goddard, will also be looking at the Peter Ball case.

Dame Moira's chairmanship was announced as The Times reported that a Church of England priest who was a former police officer held talks with police in an attempt to cover up the scale of offending by Ball. The priest had set out to establish that Ball was innocent but according to a 1993 document seen by The Times, and written up for the attention of the then-Archbishop Lord Carey of Clifton, the priest found that Ball had abused "very many young men who passed through his care".

The present Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "I am hugely grateful to Dame Moira for agreeing to take up this vital role and chair the review, which will take a detailed look into how the Church handled the Peter Ball case. We have offered an unreserved apology to all the survivors and commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

"It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a bishop in the Church of England committed these offences. There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and the systematic abuse of trust perpetrated by Peter Ball over decades. I hope the review will provide the Church as a whole with an opportunity to learn lessons which will improve our safeguarding practice and policy."

Ball pleaded guilty last year to abusing 18 young men and teengers when he was serving as Bishop of Lewes.