The Right Reverend Peter Ball, former Bishop of Gloucester in the Church of England, has been sentenced to three years in prison for decades-old abuses which resulted only in a “caution” in 1993, under Archbishop of Canterbury the Right Reverend Lord Carey of Clifton. The Church Times reports:
Bishop Ball, aged 83, was jailed after a hearing at the Old Bailey by the Hon. Mr Justice Wilkie on Wednesday after pleading guilty last month to two charges of indecent assault against two boys in their teens in the 1980s, and also a charge of misconduct in public office (News, 11 September).
The second charge relates to “manipulative behaviour, including several specific sexual offences, against 16 young men in their late teens or early twenties”, Sussex Police said at the time.
Bishop Ball was told by the judge that he would serve at least 18 months of his sentence behind bars before being released on licence. He had been forced to stand down as Bishop of Gloucester in 1993 when the allegations first came to light, after accepting a caution from police for just one count of gross indecency (News, 12 March 1993).
That is not the end of the inquiry, however:
On Monday, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that an independent inquiry would look into how the Church of England had handled the case.
The review will focus on the extent to which the Church co-operated with the police, and whether the risk of Bishop Ball’s offending again had been properly considered.
The statement that announced the review acknowledged that “questions have been raised about the Church’s handling of this case”. A report setting out in detail how the C of E dealt with allegations against Bishop Ball will be published after the independent review has been completed.
Earlier court hearings heard how the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided in 1993 to caution Bishop Ball for a single charge of gross indecency, despite there being significant amounts of evidence which could have taken the case to a full trial. The CPS had since conceded that this was the wrong decision, The Times reported on Monday.
It has also been revealed that Archbishop Carey phoned a senior official at the CPS when the caution became public knowledge, and was told Bishop Ball would not be prosecuted further.
A spokesman for Lord Carey has denied that he attempted to intervene in the case. “He discussed the matter with the CPS after the caution had been given to Peter Ball. If there was a cover-up, he was unaware. The allegations were investigated by police, and he believed this was a proper investigation.”