The former Bishop of Lewes, Peter Ball, has been sentenced to 32 months in jail for historic sex offences.
Following an investigation by Sussex Police, the retired Church of England Bishop has been sentenced for a series of offences over 15 years against 18 young men known to him.
He will serve half the term and then be released on licence. Mr Justice Wilkie said he had taken into account harm caused to victims but also testimony from many who had written in support and described his exceptional character.
At the Old Bailey on Wednesday (October 7), 83-year old Ball, of Aller, Langport, Somerset, was sentenced to 32 months for misconduct in public office, relating to manipulative behaviour, including several specific sexual offences, against 16 young men between 1977 and 1992, while he was Bishop of Lewes.
He was also convicted of two offences of indecent assault on two boys in Litlington, one in the late 1980s and one in the early 1980s.
At a previous hearing at the Old Bailey on September 8, Ball had pleaded guilty to all those offences.
On the same day, he pleaded not guilty to indecent assaults on two other teenage boys, one in Eastbourne in the late 1970s and one in Litlington in the early 1980s. The CPS decided not to proceed with these charges and the court ordered that they should lay on the court file.
Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police said: “The prosecution, authorised by the CPS, followed a thorough and very complex investigation. We began following information we received from the Church of England in May 2012 who asked us to look into concerns about Ball’s behaviour against several young men dating back to the period between the late 1970s and the early 1990s while he was Bishop of Lewes.
“We worked closely with the CPS and the Church throughout the investigation, during which 12 more men came forward, and we are glad to see that victims Ball has now admitted offending against have finally been able to achieve justice.
“We arrested Ball in November 2012, following consultation with the CPS, and he was released on bail on the same day due to concerns about his health.
“In May 2013 we sent a full file to the CPS and provided further details to them over the following months. In March 2014 the CPS authorised his prosecution.
“It became clear that under the guise of his status as a Bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality. He abused that trust and used religion, through his ‘Give a Year for Christ’ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.
“We put tremendous effort into thoroughly and diligently investigating these allegations over several years, where necessary even sending officers abroad to interview witnesses and victims.
“The outcome of our investigation and scale of the systematic offending that the investigation uncovered demonstrates the importance that we give to allegations of this nature, and reinforces our message that anyone who wishes to report sexual offending will be taken seriously by us and all allegations will be investigated, however long ago the offending is said to have occurred. Anyone who wishes to report sexual offending can contact police in confidence at any time via 101 and arrange to speak to experienced detectives.
“We also pay tribute to the victims of Ball, who have had a long wait for justice during this investigation, in which we have supported them and kept them informed.
“As well as having the full co-operation of the Church throughout our investigation, and a close working relationship with the CPS, I also recognise the hard work and dedication of my team of detectives who have worked on this case for more than three years.”
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