The Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors (MACSAS) support group have released a recording of a discussion between Phil Johnson, one of the group’s Panel members and Lady Butler-Sloss. The discussion took place in March 2011 in the Baroness’ House of Lords office during her Historic Cases Review concerning the handling of clergy abuse cases by the Diocese of Chichester.

Mr Johnson had sustained abuse at the hands of priests Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, whose cases were being reviewed by Lady Butler-Sloss. Although Mr Johnson had also reported being abused by Bishop Peter Ball, he alleges that Lady Butler-Sloss kept the Bishop’s name out of the report in order to protect the image of the church. Bishop Peter Ball has since been arrested and charged with assaulting males and committing misconduct in public office by using his position to prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification.

Mr Johnson was one of the voices calling for Lady Butler-Sloss to resign as Chair of the Independent Panel Inquiry into Sexual Abuse in July 2014. At the time, he said that while Lady Butler-Sloss had purportedly consulted with him regarding the exclusion of the Bishop’s name from her report, he felt he had little choice in the matter. He was prompted to release the recording of this discussion following a Radio Four Interview on 31 December 2014 when Lady Butler-Sloss said that she had asked him whether the name of the Bishop should be included in the report, that he had agreed to its exclusion and that he was now changing his story.

Mr Johnson has released part of the recording in order to allow listeners to make their own judgment as to what happened. He believes it supports his own version of events.

Bishop abuse discussion

In the recording, which is available on Youtube, Lady Butler-Sloss can be heard stating:

“What I do need to know is whether you want me to put Bishop [redacted] in it.  And I tell you why I raise the question…..the press would love a Bishop…and if they get a Bishop…. they are going to concentrate on him.  They are not going to concentrate on either Cotton or Pritchard. And since the Bishop didn’t do very much to you…”

She goes on to add:

“I have two reasons. One is, of course, I care about the Church……and I don’t want to give to the press that which is not terribly important in the context of the Cotton/Pritchard story and I just know that if I put a Bishop in, that’s going to take the news. I would prefer not to refer to him, but…..I don’t want to be unjust to you, do you see? And that’s why I need to consult you on it.”

Mr Johnson can be heard responding:

“I think you will have to use your judgment on that, which obviously you are very qualified to do…..Yes, I absolutely see the point you’re making…”

Towards the end of the recording, Mr Johnson points out that he had already spoken openly about the Bishop, although not to the press. Lady Butler-Sloss goes on to say in relation to the Bishop:

“And I don’t mind him being humiliated, in fact…..but I just don’t want your story hijacked in a sense, to the Bishop, rather than to what has happened with you.”

Transparency of review

The recording features a point when Lady Butler-Sloss proposes to write to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop John Hind and refer specifically to the Bishop.  Mr Johnson suggests that she could refer to the things that happened and that the supervision from the Bishops at the time was wholly inadequate. Mr Johnson has since indicated that while his allegations were dealt with by Lady Butler-Sloss, he did not feel this had been done in an open and transparent way.

During the Radio Four interview, Lady Butler-Sloss stated that her report had been extremely critical of the two priests, Cotton and Pritchard and that at the time there was not enough evidence linking the Bishop to the abuse for her to refer to it in the report. She also stated she had written an unpublished report referring to people who she felt needed to be investigated although they had not been accused of any offences at the time, some of whom have since been prosecuted.

As it stands, Lady Butler-Sloss completed her report in May 2011, but then went on to make several amendments to it in January 2012 after a BBC investigation in July 2011 revealed significant inaccuracies.