LONDON — An extraordinary elite-level coverup that included a member of the royal family, Cabinet ministers, and judges conspired to keep a pedophile bishop safe from prosecution and free to continue abusing boys.
Peter Ball, the former bishop of Lewes, was finally convicted Wednesday for decades of sexual crimes against boys and young men that date back into the 1970s.
The accusations first emerged in the early 1990s but detectives investigating the case were bombarded by calls of support for the bishop from Members of Parliament, former school headmasters, judges and a Lord.
Further support from the establishment arrived in the mail, with more than 2,000 letters, including references from Cabinet ministers and one member of the Royal family.
The Royal concerned has not been named. Ball previously described Prince Charles as “a loyal friend,” but a spokesman denied that he had intervened.
The future King of England had been at the ceremony when Ball was appointed Bishop of Gloucester. The former clergyman later retired to a wisteria-clad lodge owned by Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall empire when a first round of sex-abuse allegations forced his resignation.
Ball admitted to detectives at the time that he had masturbated in the presence of his young accuser.
Seven more boys came forward to make similar accusations, and lawyers for the Crown Prosecution Service said there was “sufficient, admissible, substantial and reliable evidence” against him, yet the bishop was never charged.
He was given a caution for “gross indecency” by police officers in 1993. Ball told the court that he was assured by a policeman at the time that he would hear no more about it: “Bishop, it’s all over.”
Ball resigned from his post “due to ill-health” but would soon return to a position of authority within the church. Just two years later, Ball was given permission to act as a priest in Cornwall for six months. That temporary permission was later extended to three years by the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey.
Lord Carey denied that he has been part of a coverup. “I greatly regret the fact that, during my tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, we dealt inadequately with Peter Ball’s victims and gave too much credence to his protestations,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Prince Charles also issued a statement after the stunning revelations. "The Prince of Wales made no intervention in the judicial process on behalf of Peter Ball,” she said. “Manor Lodge was purchased by The Duchy of Cornwall, not by The Prince of Wales, and was tenanted in the usual manner. The Duchy of Cornwall owns over a thousand residential properties across the U.K. The Prince of Wales, as Duke of Cornwall, holds the legal title to these properties; the Law requires that his name appears on the Deeds.”
The protection offered to a pedophile from the highest echelons of British public life was revealed for the first time during a court hearing in London on Wednesday.
It came less than 12 hours after the BBC ran an edition of its documentary series, Panorama—called ‘The VIP Paedophile Ring: What’s the Truth’—that sought to play down Britain’s pedophile scandal.
Scotland Yard said earlier this year that they were investigating allegations for child sex abuse against 1,400 prominent suspects, 666 of whom were linked to institutions including schools, children’s homes, and religious establishments.
The example of Ball, 83, is particularly distasteful as he directly used his theological position to trick boys into believing they must take part in his twisted rituals.
A 17-year-old novice monk was taught that he must complete what he called “penitential psalms.”
This involved stripping naked to pray in a chapel at night and taking cold showers while Ball watched. The bishop said the 17-year-old should be beaten with a stick or whip so that his body could “bear the marks.”
“For him, religion was a cloak behind which he hid in order to satisfy his sexual interest in those who trusted him,” said Bobbie Cheema, the prosecutor.
“He was highly regarded as a godly man who had a special affinity with young people… The truth was that he used those 15 years in the position of bishop to identify, groom and exploit sensitive and vulnerable young men who came within his orbit.”
The prosecutor said Ball had previously denied that he was sexually excited by these rituals, claiming that he had been “spiritually uplifted.” He retracted that ludicrous claim, which had helped to keep him from jail for decades, before pleading guilty in September.
Ball entered guilty pleas for indecently assaulting two teenagers and abusing 16 more. He denied two further charges of assaulting boys aged between 12 and 15.
Neil Todd, the trainee monk who first dared to speak out against his spiritual leader, attempted suicide three times in the years that would follow.
After it emerged that the case would finally be heard in court 20 years after he had raised the alarm, Todd took his own life in 2012.
Ball was sentenced to 32 months in prison.
A statement from the Crown Prosecution Service read: “In the matter of Bishop Peter Ball the CPS has not received any correspondence, nor seen any correspondence to others, from any member of the Royal family. The information we hold does not indicate any interference in this case by the Prince of Wales. As stated in the opening statement of the case on Wednesday 7 October in court, the CPS was informed by the police in 1993 that the defence team were believed to hold around 2,000 letters of support for the Bishop which, the defence claimed, included correspondence from the 'Royal family.' The CPS can’t verify any details of this claim.”
When asked by the Daily Beast if Prince Charles had ever sent a letter in support of Ball, his spokesperson had no comment to make.
This story was updated to reflect the statements issued on behalf of Prince Charles and the Crown Prosecution Service.