BREAKING NEWS: Former bishop admits sex abuse charges

Ex Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball SUS-150809-121026001
Ex Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball SUS-150809-121026001

A former Church of England bishop is facing jail after admitting abusing his position to indecently assault two men in the 80s and 90s.

Peter Ball, 82, the former Bishop of Lewes, today (Tuesday) pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and admitted misconduct in public office spanning more than 15 years.

The frail pensioner appeared at the Old Bailey via videolink to enter the pleas, after losing a protracted legal battle to avoid the charges.

He had thought the sex offences charges had gone away after the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, personally intervened to ensure he would not be prosecuted.

But the sex charges did not go away and he was today forced to admit the attacks.

Ball insisted that he had been assured by the police and CPS that a caution he accepted for gross indecency in 1993 would cover him for any other offences alleged to have been committed accepting the caution.

Ball resigned from his position as the Bishop of Gloucester shortly after and said he was given the guarantee by a police officer who told him, “Bishop, this is all over”.

Ball’s barristers argued that the case should now be thrown out as an abuse of process, forcing Lord Carey to submit a statement about his involvement in the case.

“I was worried if any other allegations were made it would re ignite a police investigation,” he said.

Lord Carey even made an after dinner phone call to a director of the DPP to clarify the position, the court heard.

“I was told quite categorically that any past indecency maters would not be taken any further,” the Archbishop said.

The man, whose name the Archbishop could not recall, refused to put his assurance in writing.

But he assured Lord Carey that Ball was “out of it”, it was said during the abuse of process argument.

Mr Justice Wilkie rejected the argument and insisted that the clergyman face the charges.

Ball admitted indecently assaulting a man between December 31, 1980 and January 1, 1983, and indecently assaulting another victim between October 7, 1990 and November 1, 1991.

He also confessed to misconduct in public office by ‘misusing his position and authority to manipulate and prevail on others for sexual gratification’.

Ball pleaded not guilty to two counts of indecent assault on two teenage boys, and prosecutor Bobbie Cheema QC said the case on those two counts would not go to trial.

Bail was released on bail to appear at the Old Bailey on October 7 for sentence.

The first attack in the 1980s was on a man aged between 19 and 20 in Litlington, East Sussex.

The second attack was on a man aged over 16 in Berwick, East Sussex.

The offences were all committed when he was Bishop Of Lewes.

Ball was arrested in November 2012 near his home in Langport, Somerset, following allegations of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Chichester during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

But he was adamant that he was told the matter was over when he was cautioned on 8 March 1993.

Giving evidence via a video link, the frail former bishop said he did not have any memory of many events in his past.

But he said he had a clear recollection of being given the caution because it was so “crucial” to his life.

“After I took the caution I asked very clearly does this include all other offences of the same nature before the time of the caution.

“I was told very clearly that it did.”

Ball said he asked because he was aware others also wanted to make allegations against him.

“I knew there were people waiting in the wings who wished to accuse me. I have never disguised the fact there could easily be allegations.”

Ball added, ‘You have got to remember if you will it was a long time ago. My mind has deteriorated greatly and I cannot speak coherently.

“But I remember this in my confused mind because it was so important to me.”

“I can remember it so clearly. I was so glad to get away. That was the last words of the policeman: ‘Bishop this is all over.”

Ball was prompted by his solicitor sat next to him as he entered the guilty and not guilty pleas.

The judge adjourned the case until October 7 for a sentencing hearing.

Ball, of Langport, Somerset, pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office and two counts of indecent assault.

He denied two more counts of indecent assault.

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