Perverted priest had friends in high places
Former bishop Peter Ball, above, whose friends included the Prince of Wales, will be sentenced on October 7 after he after he pleaded guilty this week to two counts of indecent assault and one charge of misconduct in public office relating to the sexual abuse of 16 young men over a period of 15 years from 1977 to 1992.
According to the Guardian, victims of the former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester have accused the Church of England, the police and senior prosecutors of presiding over an establishment cover-up that prevented him from facing justice for decades.
Details of how the paedophile priest escaped justice 22 years ago were finally revealed after he entered his guilty plea.
Ball was not charged when the allegations of abuse against him first emerged in 1993. Instead the police and senior figures in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), then led by the late Barbara Mills, agreed to issue Ball with a caution.
This was done with the knowledge of the then archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey. Ball then resigned as bishop and went to live in a property lent to him by his friend the Prince of Wales.
Since 1993, those who accused Ball of abuse have struggled for recognition. Phil Johnson, who alleged 19 years ago that Ball had sexually abused him as a 13-year-old boy, said the last two decades amounted to an establishment cover-up.
One of his victims did not live to see the moment when Ball pleaded guilty in the Old Bailey in London. Interviewed by the BBC in 2012, Neil Todd said the police inquiry was long overdue.
Johnson said of Ball:
He is very well connected. There has been pressure on the police ever since 1993 when all this first emerged. It’s been going on for years.
There are many, many victims who have fought for a long time to see him face justice and have not been believed. The church and the establishment have colluded in covering up bishop Peter Ball’s offending at the highest level over very many years.
Evidence presented to pre-trial hearings in the Ball case reveal that when allegations of abuse emerged in 1993, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers said there was “sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence” of indecent assault and gross indecency. Ball, however, was given a caution and escaped a trial and public scrutiny.
Pre-trial evidence also showed that Ball, while still the bishop of Gloucester, said a police officer had reassured him with the words:
Bishop, this is all over.
Statements submitted to the court in the pre-trial hearings included one from former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, above, explaining his intervention in the case. He said in a written statement that he had telephoned a senior CPS director he knew regarding the Ball case in 1993.
He said he was told the caution meant that if other allegations from the past emerged against Ball they would not be pursued in future.
I was worried that if any other allegations were made it would reignite a police investigation. I was told quite categorically that any past indecency matters would not be taken further.
Lord Carey said the senior CPS official told him:
As far as we are concerned he has resigned. He is out of it. We are not going to take anything any further.
The CPS outlined the deal they were offering in a letter to Ball that read:
The view is taken that there is sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence available to support your client for offences of indecent assault and gross indecency.
Having regard to all the circumstances however the Crown would be prepared to allow disposal less than prosecution, namely a caution for an offence of gross indecency … as an alternative to prosecution.
The CPS has denied the caution in any way represented immunity from further prosecutions if more allegations emerged. Ball told the court, however, that he had been reassured there would be no further action in future.
At a pre-trial hearing this year, where Ball appeared frail and weakly spoken, he said:
After I took the caution I asked very clearly ‘does this include all other offences of the same nature before the time of the caution?’
I was told very clearly that it did. I knew there were other people waiting in the wings who wished to accuse me. I have never disguised the fact that there could easily be allegations.
It was a long time ago, my mind has deteriorated greatly and I cannot speak coherently. But I remember this in my confused mind because it was so important to me. I was so glad to get away.
After accepting the caution, Ball resigned from the church to plaudits from Carey, who called him a “highly gifted and original man”. He went to live with his twin brother, the bishop of Truro, and later moved into a property in Somerset provided by Prince Charles on the Duchy of Cornwall estate. Ball described the prince as “a loyal friend”.
Although Ball had resigned, he continued working in churches until 2010, the Church of England having given him permission to officiate.
Over the next 19 years Ball’s name came up in at least three police investigations into sexual abuse by Church of England priests, but he was never charged. Allegations against him also surfaced in at least three official inquiries into decades of child protection failures in the diocese of Chichester, of which Lewes is part.
His arrest in 2012 came after a retired police officer, who was working as a safeguarding officer for the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at Lambeth Palace, discovered files relating to abuse by Ball. She passed them to Sussex police and asked them to reopen their investigation. Ball was arrested at his home in Langport in November.
Ball was the most senior of a group of Church of England priests in the diocese of Chichester whose activities are only now being brought before criminal courts, many years after their victims first spoke out to the authorities.
As bishop of Lewes he presided over the parishes of East Sussex, including Eastbourne and Hastings, between 1977 and 1992. In 1960 he founded a monastic community, the Order of the Glorious Ascension, and as a result many young boys came into his care as novice monks over the years.
The Guardian reported that, on Tuesday, the Crown Prosecution Service allowed two charges of indecent assault on two boys in their early teens are to lie on file. The deal, hammered out in secret with CPS lawyers, means Ball will not face trial on perhaps the most serious alleged offences, which involved boys aged 13 and 15.
Bobbie Cheema QC, for the crown, told the Old Bailey there had been a great deal of communication between prosecutors and the defence, which had resulted in the pleas.
Cheema said as a result of the guilty pleas, the crown felt a trial on the remaining charges would not be in the public interest.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn