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Official report brands Prince of Wales ‘misguided’ over shamed bishop Peter Ball

The report noted Charles’s ‘cordial’ correspondence with Ball.

The Prince of Wales (Finbarr Webster(/PA)
The Prince of Wales (Finbarr Webster(/PA)

It “remains a matter of deep regret” that the Prince of Wales and others were “deceived” by shamed clergyman Peter Ball, a spokesman for the prince has said, after Charles’s actions were described in an official report as “misguided”.

The scathing report into abuse of vulnerable boys and others accused the Church of England of “putting its own reputation above the needs of victims”, offering secrecy and protection for abusers which allowed them to “hide in plain sight”.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) report said Ball, a self-styled confidant to Charles, was an example of how a senior member of the Anglican church “was able to sexually abuse vulnerable teenagers and young men for decades”.

The actions of the Prince of Wales - in speaking about Ball with the Archbishop of Canterbury and a member of Lambeth Palace, and the Duchy of Cornwall buying a property to rent to Ball and his brother - were misguided Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse report

It said abusers like Ball were given support from senior colleagues which was “rarely extended to his victims”.

It said “clericalism and tribalism” pervaded the church, affording offenders protection and resulting in an abuse of power

And on the prince’s role, the report said: “The actions of the Prince of Wales – in speaking about Ball with the (then) Archbishop of Canterbury (Lord Carey) and a member of Lambeth Palace, and the Duchy of Cornwall buying a property to rent to Ball and his brother – were misguided.

“His actions, and those of his staff, could have been interpreted as expressions of support for Peter Ball and, given the Prince of Wales’ future role within the Church of England, had the potential to influence the actions of the Church.”

Following publication of the report, a Clarence House spokesman said: “It remains a matter of deep regret to the prince that he, along with many others, was deceived by Peter Ball over so many years.

“As he made clear in his voluntary witness statement to the inquiry, at no time did he bring any influence to bear on the actions of the Church or any other relevant authority.

“His thoughts remain with victims of the abuse suffered over many years.”

Charles, who will be supreme governor of the Church of England when he becomes king, told the inquiry in a written statement that he “at no stage (sought) to influence the outcome” of any police investigation into Ball.

In a series of letters between the prince and Ball, Charles said he wished he could “do more” for him.

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Peter Ball (John Stillwell/PA)

He added: “I feel so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you and the way you have been treated.”

Charles also wrote in support of finding a Duchy property for Ball and his brother to rent, and told him: “I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you and gives you peace and tranquillity.”

Charles, who maintained a correspondence with Ball for more than two decades after the bishop accepted a caution in 1992 for gross indecency, told the inquiry he did not realise the truth behind allegations against Ball until his conviction several years later.

He said he responded to Ball’s letters occasionally believing it to be the “polite” thing to do.

However, the inquiry found the replies were “suggestive of cordiality rather than mere politeness”.

Charles said did not know of the exact details of the allegations in 1992, and, the inquiry found, did not try to find out.

The IICSA said that while Charles said he took “no position” on Ball’s subsequent return to ministry, he and his private secretary inquired about Ball within Lambeth Palace.

The report said Charles “should have recognised the potential effect that his apparent support for Peter Ball could have had” upon decision-making within Lambeth Palace.

One of Ball’s victims, who wished to remain anonymous, accused the prince of “trying to distance himself from Ball” and “play down” their close friendship.

He added: “To say that he was simply misguided in continuing that friendship, even after he was made aware of Ball’s police caution, seems to be letting him off rather lightly.

“He must have been fully aware of the power and influence that his support would bring.

“I welcome the work of the inquiry but I can’t help but feel that we will never know the full truth and so those who did contribute to the cover-up may never be properly held to account.”

Richard Scorer, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon who acts for a number of victims, said: “We may never know the true harm caused by Charles’ intervention and support for Ball, but welcome the fact that the inquiry did not shy away from highlighting his role in this scandal.

“This report is a damning indictment of years of church cover-up, facilitation of child abuse and denigration and dismissal of victims.”

The report focused on evidence against the Diocese of Chichester and against Ball, and found “a number of serious failings” following allegations of child sexual abuse dating back more than 40 years.

IICSA found claims of abuse were not handled adequately by the Church, lacked urgency or appreciation of their seriousness and allowed the Church to prioritise its own image above its responsibilities to victims.

One of Ball’s victims, Neil Todd, killed himself aged 38 after being “seriously failed” by the Church, which “discounted Ball’s conduct as trivial and insignificant” while displaying “callous indifference” to Mr Todd’s complaints.

The report also criticised former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who showed “compassion” to Ball and displayed his “overt support” for him despite there being no justification.

Victims were “disbelieved and dismissed” by those in authority at the Diocese of Chichester, which received the most reports of child sexual abuse in any of the 42 dioceses in England and Wales during half a century.

Professor Alexis Jay, inquiry chairman, said: “For years, the Diocese of Chichester failed victims and survivors of child sexual abuse by prioritising its own reputation above their welfare.

“Not only were disclosures of abuse handled inadequately by the Church when they came to light, its response was marked by secrecy and a disregard for the seriousness of abuse allegations.”

John O’Brien, secretary to the inquiry, said: “I think people will be shocked (by the findings) – I hope they are.

“People will, I think, ask where do we go if we can’t turn to that very organisation (the Church) in order to get the support and care that we need?”

Ball, now in his late 80s, accepted a caution for one count of gross indecency in 1992 and resigned due to ill-health.

It was not until 22 years later that he finally admitted his crimes, and was jailed in 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men over three decades.

PA

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