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Prince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles denies supporting a former bishop convicted of sex offences

The Prince of Wales has denied claims of intervening in the judicial proceedings against Peter Ball, a former leading Church of England clergyman, who was jailed yesterday for sex offences against young men. During the sentencing hearing, which took place at the Old Bailey, the court heard that when Ball was first accused of indecent assault in 1993 letters of support for him came from several famous people including a member of the Royal Family. Following that, Clarence House issued a statement which read ‘The Prince of Wales made no intervention in the judicial process on behalf of Peter Ball’.

Peter Ball, who served as both Bishop of Lewes and Bishop of Gloucester, admitted offences against teenagers and young men between the 1970s and the 1990s. He was sentenced to 32 months in prison for misconduct in a public office and 15 months for indecent assaults with the terms to run concurrently. The judge told Ball that he had used his position to ‘persuade selected individuals to commit or submit to acts of physical or sexual debasement under the guise of being part of their austere regime of devotion when they were not”.

Peter Ball was first investigated over claims of indecent assault in 1993 when he was still Bishop of Gloucester.  He was eventually cautioned over one act of gross indecency against a trainee monk called Neil Todd but the court heard that during the investigation into the allegations, police received over 2,000 letters of support for Ball from a wide range of people including MPs and a member of the Royal Family. The prosecuting QC at the sentencing hearing, Bobbie Cheema, told the court that “I should make it clear that it is impossible to say whether those letters were encouraged and it is unlikely that those who wrote were in possession of the full facts,”

After the caution, Peter Ball resigned as Bishop of Gloucester but was allowed to continue working as a priest until 2010. The investigation was reopened in 2012 and, last month, Peter Ball admitted the offences he was sentenced for on October 7th 2015. Neil Todd didn’t live to see that happen – he took his own life in 2012.

Following the court revelation that a member of the Royal Family had given their support to Ball during the first investigation, questions were raised as to who that might have been. Peter Ball has described the Prince of Wales as a friend and, following the 1993 investigation, the disgraced former bishop lived in a rented cottage on the Duchy of Cornwall estate. The one line statement from Clarence House was a direct response to those questions.

As he begins his sentence, Ball now faces proceedings under the disciplinary code of the Church of England. Those hearings could see the 83 year old formally barred from ministry for life.

Featured Photo Credit: Peter Broster via Flickr