By Paul Gallagher
Prince Charles has denied trying to influence two police investigations into a paedophile bishop who he invited into his home to officiate communion during the 1990s.
In an unprecedented intervention to a major public inquiry by a senior member of the royal family, the Prince of Wales said he became friends with Peter Ball after meeting him in the 1980s, but was later “misled” by the disgraced bishop. Ball was eventually was jailed, aged 86, for 32 months in October 2015 for offences against 18 teenagers and men.
Ball resigned from his position as Bishop of Gloucester – “my local diocesan bishop” in Charles’s words – in 1993 after admitting to an act of gross indecency with a 19-year-old man and accepting a formal police caution for it. In an extraordinary statement to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation into the Anglican Church, Prince Charles claimed he was unaware of the exact reason behind Ball’s resignation.
“Peter Ball told me he had been involved in some sort of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation as my local bishop. When this exchange took place, I did not know about the nature of the complaint.
“[Ball] emphasised that one individual that I now understand to be Mr Neil Todd had made a complaint to the police, that the police had investigated the matter, and the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to take no action.
“That sequence of events seemed to support Mr Ball’s claim that the complaint emanated from one individual and that individual bore a grudge against him and was persecuting him, that the complaint was false, but that the individual had nonetheless profited from the complaint by selling his story.
“Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, has been misled.”
The statement, read by counsel to the inquiry Fiona Scolding on the last of a five-day hearing into disgraced bishop, said the clergyman had come across as as an “interesting and engaging person”.
Prince Charles, 69, said: “The true context and details of this complaint, and I now understand many others, against Peter Ball did not come to my attention until the time of Mr Ball’s trial and conviction in 2015.
“I ceased contact with Mr Ball once the judicial process had concluded, and he was found guilty of serious offences against young people. My heart goes out to the victims of abuse and I applaud their courage as they rebuild their lives and so often offer invaluable support to others who have suffered.
“It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time, about the true nature of Mr Ball’s activities.”
The prince said in the 1980s and 1990s there was “a presumption that people such as Bishops could be taken at their word and, as a result of the high office they held, were worthy of trust and confidence”. At the time “there was on my part a presumption of good faith”.
He said: “Throughout my life my position has occasionally brought me into contact with prominent people who have subsequently been accused of serious wrong doing. Rather than rushing to private judgement I have always taken the view that the judicial process should take its course.”
Prince Charles said he would occasionally receive letters from Ball “in respect of private, often spiritual, matters.” Ball had mentioned in a 2009 letter to Charles the word “caution” but the future king said he did not appreciate its meaning. “I was not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt,” he said.
Gifts of money
After Ball resigned in 1993 he and his brother Michael, later Bishop of Truro, would become homeless and had very little money, Charles said.
The statement said: “In this context, I occasionally sent the brothers small gifts of money, as I do for many people in need, and Peter Ball’s interest in becoming a tenant of a Duchy of Cornwall property then arose.”
He said the Ball brothers were tenants of a Duchy property from 1997 to 2011. Charles said: “At no stage did I ever seek to influence the outcome of either of the police investigations into Peter Ball and nor did I instruct or encourage my staff to do so.”
He added: “I understand … that a member of Gloucestershire Police seems to recall that he ‘came under pressure’ in 1992 or 1993 which related in some way to some form of interest from myself and my staff in Peter Ball. This is untrue.”
He said there is a “gap between rumour and fact”. Extracts from the series of letters between Ball and Prince Charles were also read to the inquiry. In one letter in 1995, Charles wrote: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.”
Another letter from Charles in 1996 referred to the process of getting a property for Ball and his brother. It said: “I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you and gives you peace and tranquility – and not too far from here so you can come over more easily.”
The inquiry continues.
Extracts from correspondence between Prince Charles and the clergyman
The letters, which are from before the clergyman was jailed in 2015, were read to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. They suggest that the Prince sympathised with Ball after he received a caution in 1993.
11 December 1994, Prince Charles to Peter Ball
“I saw the Archbishop the other day and he told me he is trying to bring you back to a public ministry. I do hope this will be all right and suit you, if and when it happens.”
16 February 1995, Charles to Ball
“I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated. It’s appalling that the Archbishop has gone back on what he told me, before Xmas, that he was hoping to restore you to some form of Ministry in the Church. I suspect you are absolutely right – it is due to fear of the media.”
8 December 1995, Ball to Charles
“The young man who accused me keeps on harassing. The last was a few weeks back with a fax, threatening to say more, when he has agreed not to and ending with the words ‘Your never forgiving brother in Christ’. That is both vile and blasphemous and oh that the police and CPS had seen and known from the beginning the nature of the young man.”
10 April 1996, Ball to Charles
“And I can honestly share the pain of it all having tried to break the crippling and un-Christian powers of the ecclesiastical set-up, and then being deserted in my hour of need.”
2 June 1996, Charles to Ball
“I am so glad that [X] has been in touch as I requested. I pray the Duchy will be able to find something suitable for you both in due course, but it may take a little time to locate it! I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you and gives you peace and tranquility – and not too far from here so you can come over more easily…”
23 March 1997, Charles to Ball
“I can’t bear it that the frightful, terrifying man is on the loose again… I was visiting the vicar… and we were enthusing about you and your brother and he then told me that he had heard that this ghastly man was up to his dastardly tricks again… I’ll see off this horrid man if he tries anything again.”
9 August 2001, Charles to Ball
“I do, however, firmly believe that one day people will be forced to signing your resignation deed but, as you have been advised, I daresay that the establishment will close ranks and you will get nowhere. But how outrageous that now these people say sorry – and only in private…”
25 May 2012, Ball to Charles
Writes to say that the police are re-opening the investigation and are to question him.
10 December 2012, Ball to Charles
Ball wrote to thank the Prince for phoning him, writing in the letter that the affair of 20 years ago has been stirred up again by Lambeth Palace.
This article (‘I did not try to influence Peter Ball investigation.’) was originally published on iNews UK and syndicated by The Event Chronicle.