Wednesday 12 December 2018

Britain's Prince Charles to tell inquiry of 'regret' over deception by sex abuse bishop

Prince Charles with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall
Prince Charles with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall

Flora Thompson and Ellie Cullen

Britain's Prince Charles will tell a child sexual abuse inquiry he was "deceived" by disgraced bishop Peter Ball - and that he was unaware of the true nature of the clergyman's behaviour until more than 20 years after allegations first surfaced.

A written statement from the Prince of Wales will be read on July 27 during the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation as it examines how allegations against the former Church of England bishop were handled.

Now 86, the former bishop of Lewes and then Gloucester was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men over 30 years. He was released in February last year after serving half his sentence behind bars.

Ball, who boasted of his links to royalty and was said to be a confidant of Charles, had accepted a caution for one count of gross indecency in 1993 and resigned due to ill health.

According to The Times, Charles' statement to IICSA will say he was not aware of the "significance" of the caution when Ball mentioned it in a letter in 2009, and that he did not know until recently that a caution carries an acceptance of guilt.

A spokesman for Clarence House said: "In his statement The Prince makes it clear that he was unaware of the true nature of Mr Ball's behaviour until the latter's trial and conviction in 2015, at which point he severed all contact.

"Along with many others, he was deceived by Peter Ball over a very long period of time, which is something he deeply regrets."

The inquiry is examining how the Church of England handled allegations of sexual abuse and has previously focused on the Diocese of Chichester - where Ball and several other convicted paedophile priests once officiated.

In the week-long case study beginning on Monday, the inquiry said it would investigate "whether there were inappropriate attempts by people of prominence to interfere in the criminal justice process after he was first accused of child sexual offences".

Previously Clarence House reportedly said it did not believe the correspondence between Ball and the future king - whose Highbury country residence sits in the Diocese of Gloucester over which the bishop once presided - had any bearing on the issues before the inquiry but did not object to them being shared for consideration.

Last year, an independent review found Ball used his connections to boost his position.

Clarence House referred to other findings in the report, which said: "We have reviewed all the relevant material including the correspondence passing between the Prince of Wales and Ball held by the Church and found no evidence that the Prince of Wales or any other member of the Royal Family sought to intervene at any point in order to protect or promote Ball.

"The Crown Prosecution Service has publicly stated that it had neither received nor seen any correspondence from a member of the Royal Family when Ball was under investigation in 1992/93."

Ball's sentence came 22 years after the abuse allegation first surfaced. He eventually admitted misconduct in a public office and two counts of indecent assault.

The court heard that Ball convinced some of his victims to strip naked to pray and even suggested they submit to beatings between 1977 and 1992.

The first of his victims to come forward took his own life in 2012 after hearing that Sussex Police had reopened the case.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey - who will also give evidence next week - resigned as honorary assistant bishop in the Diocese of Oxford after an inquiry found he delayed a "proper investigation" into Ball's crimes for two decades by failing to pass information to police.

Reverend Graham Sawyer, who was abused by Ball as a teenager and waived his right to anonymity, is also among those due to give evidence next week, as well as retired judge Lord Anthony Lloyd of Berwick, a former member of the House of Lords.

Press Association

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