A former bishop and friend of the Prince of Wales has admitted sexually abusing 18 young men amid claims that the upper echelons of the Church colluded and conspired with the criminal justice system for decades to cover up his crimes.
Peter Ball, who served as Bishop of Lewes and later Gloucester, used his position as a senior cleric by inviting aspiring vicars to his home and abusing them over a period of at least 15 years from 1977.
Ball, 83, denied the two most serious charges of abusing boys aged 13 and 15, and he was spared a trial after a behind-closed-doors deal struck between prosecutors and defence lawyers.
One of the alleged victims, Phil Johnson, who came forward to police in 1996 to claim that he was abused as a 13-year-old, complained that nearly two decades later he still would not have the opportunity to tell his story in court.
“It should be for a jury to decide whether Peter Ball offended against little boys who were under 16, not him and his lawyers doing deals in yet another attempt to belittle his behaviour and reduce his punishment,” he said in a statement. “This does not feel like justice.”
Ball accepted a caution in 1993 in relation to the abuse of one young man, Neil Todd, and resigned his post as Bishop of Gloucester.
The deal – which helped the church avoid a major scandal – was struck despite police knowing about two other complaints at his then home in Litlington, East Sussex.
Prosecutors wrote to Ball at the time to say that there was enough evidence to prosecute him for indecent assault and gross indecency but “having regards to all the circumstances” he was offered a caution.
In a statement at an earlier hearing that can be revealed for the first time, Lord Carey, who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, claims he was told by a senior prosecutor that “he has resigned. He is out of it. The matter is closed. We are not going to take anything any further.”
Lord Carey had said in 1993 that the resignation was a cause of great sorrow as the bishop was a “highly gifted and original man”.
But after a report into the scandal of child abuse and cover up in the Chichester diocese, police reopened the investigation in 2012 and charged him with a string of sex offences.
Todd, who lived in Australia, committed suicide in August 2012 shortly after being contacted by police.
Ball pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey via video link from Taunton after an attempt to have the case against him thrown out failed.
The Church of England issued an “unreserved apology” to the victims.Reuse content