Retired Anglican bishop gets 32-month jail term for 15-year sex abuse of young men

Peter Ball was found to have abused his position as the bishop of Lewes in southern England.(

A retired British Anglican bishop was sent to jail on Wednesday after being convicted of sexually abusing young men over a period of 15 years.

Peter Ball was sentenced to 32 months in jail for sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 young men aged 17 to 25 who came to him for spiritual guidance between 1977 and 1992 when he was the bishop of Lewes in southern England, reports said.

In sentencing him, Justice Alan Wilkie said Ball abused his position.

"You pursued selected individuals to commit or submit to acts of physical or sexual debasement under the guise of it being part of an austere regime of devotion," Wilkie said. "These acts were committed at your suggestion for your own sexual gratification."

Police received phone calls in 1993 from royalty, lord chief justice, cabinet ministers all supporting Ball, according to prosecutor Bobbie Cheema.

At one instance, Ball said he intended to defend his action by using the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi.

"You expressly accept that you obtained sexual gratification from the deliberate manipulation of vulnerable young men and that your frequent contact, over a period of time, with most of your victims was of a kind consistent with grooming," Wilkie said.

Neil Tood, one of Ball's victims, attempted suicide several times in 1992 because of the abuse and finally succeeding in killing himself in 2012.

"I'm very, very, very sorry," said Ball who admitted to the charges last month.

According to Paul Butler, the Church of England's lead bishop on abuse issues, Ball's conviction is a cause for "deep shame and regret."

US ex-pastor accused of stealing church money to pay off mistress

Meanwhile, former Pastor Ralph Sawyer of the Lindsay Lane Baptist Church in Athens, Alabama, USA, has been accused of stealing nearly $22,000 in church funds to pay off his mistress.

Sawyer, who is married, admitted using the church's ATM card to withdraw money and is charged with felony stealing, reports said.

The church treasurer noticed the missing funds. Sawyer withdrew 35 times from the church account in June and July.

Sawyer resigned from the church in August and turned himself in to the police on Sept. 1. He has been released.