Former Bishop of Gloucester pleads guilty to sex abuse

A Church of England bishop who urged young men to "give a year to Christ" used this scheme as a cloak behind which to groom his victims to satisfy his sexual desire for young men.

Now this former bishop is facing jail after losing a long legal battle to avoid charges for the abuse.

More than two decades after victims first went to the police, disgraced former Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball pleaded guilty this morning.

Ball, who with his identical twin brother Michael, set up an Anglican monastic house, the Community of the Glorious Ascension, admitted abusing his position to indecently assault two men in the 1980s and 90s. The offences took place while he was Bishop of Lewes, before his translation to Gloucester.

Ball, 82, pleaded guilty to two charges of indecent assault relating to two young men and to one charge of misconduct in public office over a period of 15 years up to 1992, the year of his move to Gloucester.

It was revealed that Ball, from the Church's Anglo-Catholic wing, had previously been allowed by prosecutors and police to escape facing charges 22 years ago with the knowledge and even personal intervention of Lord Carey of Clifton, Archbishop of Canterbury at the time.

Ball resigned as Bishop of Gloucester in 1993 after admitting gross indecency with a man aged 19. The decision not to press charges then was made after confidential talks between police, prosecutors at the Church, even though the Crown Prosecution Service found "sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence" of indecent assault and gross indecency.

A previous court hearing had been told of a police officer who told Ball after he accepted the caution and resigned in 1993: "Bishop, this is all over."

In a statement to the court about his own involvement, Lord Carey said he had been worried that any further allegations would lead to another police investigation. The then-Archbishop telephoned the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to clarify the position. Although he never got this confirmed in writing, and did not know the name of the person he spoke to, Lord Carey said: "I was told quite categorically that any past indecency matters would not be taken any further."

Court News reported that Ball appeared at Old Bailey via video link from Taunton magistrates court looking frail. Two additional charges of assaulting boys aged 13 and 15 are being allowed by the Crown Prosecution Service to lie on file.

Bob Cheema QC, prosecuting, said it was felt that a trial on the charges concerning the two teenagers was not in the public interest, given that Ball had pleaded guilty to the other charges. The former bishop will be sentenced on 7 October.

After the case the Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, said: "We offer an unreserved apology to all the survivors and those affected by this news. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

"We are aware that two individuals will not have the opportunity to have their case heard in criminal court following the plea agreement."

He said Ball was charged with the offences following his arrest in November 2012 and the Church had fully coperated with the police throughout their investigation.

"The Church of England always takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent. Any survivors or those with information about church-related abuse must always feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence."

The Church has also worked with the NSPCC to set up a confidential helpline, 0800 389 53440800 389 5344 FREE, for anyone affected by the case.

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."