UNITED KINGDOM: Bishop escaped abuse charges after royal family, MPs intervened, court told

[7 October 2015] - MPs, a lord chief justice, a member of the royal family and public school headmasters all intervened to stop a bishop being prosecuted for sexual abuse 22 years ago, the Old Bailey has heard.

Former bishop Peter Ball was facing jail on Wednesday after admitting last month the sexual abuse of 18 young men between 1977 and 1992 when he was bishop of Lewes.

He escaped justice when his first victim complained in 1992 after interventions from leading figures in the establishment. Instead of being prosecuted he was given a caution.

Bobbie Cheema QC prosecuting said: “The police report that accompanied the papers sent to the CPS in 1993 after the police had done their work stated they had received telephone calls supportive of Peter Ball “from many dozens of people – including MPs, former public school headmasters JPs and even a lord chief justice”.

She added that a member of the royal family and cabinet ministers also sent letters of support.

Ball was a close friend of the Prince of Wales, who gave him a cottage on his Duchy of Cornwall grounds after he was cautioned in 1993.

As a result Ball was never charged with the indecent assault of Neil Todd, who later killed himself. It was only 22 years later that he finally admitted grooming exploiting and abusing vulnerable young men who came into his orbit.

Ball is being sentenced on Wednesday. He pleaded guilty to two indecent assaults on two young men and misconduct in public office relating to the abuse of 16 young men in September this year.

The abuse suffered by the young men aged between 17 and 20 included attempts to whip and beat them, the court heard. Ball carried out re-baptisms in which he told the young men to strip naked and he was naked. One victim said he saw Ball as a “living Saint”.

Ball had previously argued he was not fit to stand trial and that as a bishop he was not the holder of a public office. Both arguments were lost.

Cheema also said the then DPP Barbara Mills made the final decision not to charge Ball in 1993 with the sexual abuse of Todd. During the police inquiry six more young men had come forward, the court heard.

Ball resigned from his role after accepting the caution in 1993 but the then archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, allowed him to officiate in the church for another three years.

Todd killed himself in 2012 after the police reopened an investigation into the years of abuse carried out by Ball.

Sandra Laville

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