A bishop who sexually abused young men escaped justice thanks to a “deeply sinister, co-ordinated” cover-up, one of his victims has said.
Former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 after pleading guilty to historical sex offences, but he had been originally investigated and cautioned by police in 1993.
Documents seen by the BBC suggest that his defence team in the first investigation sought a deal with the police to avoid scandal as the bishop was “friendly with Prince Charles”.
The Rev Graham Sawyer, one of the men abused by Ball, told the BBC, “It looks like there was a deeply sinister, co-ordinated, but probably in the end rather inept attempt at a cover-up.”
After Ball was sentenced, Lord Carey, who was the head of the Church of England when it emerged that the bishop had misused his power over teenagers and young men, apologised for dealing with his victims “inadequately” but denied presiding over a cover-up.
He said, “Allegations by some that my actions amounted to a cover-up or collusion with the abuser are wrong.”
But according to the BBC, investigating officer Detective Inspector Wayne Murdock is said to have discussed with Ball’s legal team in the documents the need to prevent a scandal in the press, especially as Peter was a frequent visitor to Sandringham and “is friendly with Prince Charles”.
In a separate document released by Gloucestershire Police in response to an Freedom of Information request, Mr Murdock writes that after a meeting at Lambeth Palace, it was suggested that any form of Church investigation instigated by the Archbishop of Canterbury would be “fairly low key and private”.
He said the Church had displayed a “considerable amount of naivety” over the case as it took no action when advised in early September 1992 of “irregularities” concerning Ball.
Gloucestershire Police received messages of support for the former clergyman from MPs, former public school heads, JPs and a Lord Chief Justice, and Mr Murdock said, “According to defence sources they claim to have in excess of 2,000 letters of support for Bishop Peter Ball, including letters from Cabinet ministers and Royal Family.”
The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has commissioned an independent review - led by Dame Moira Gibb according to reports - into how the Church dealt with the allegations against Ball who pleaded guilty to misconduct in a public office between 1977 and 1992 and two counts of indecent assault.
An NSPCC spokesperson said, “We welcome the review into sexual abuse committed by Peter Ball, the former Bishop of Lewes. We must get to the bottom of how he was able to continue systematically abusing teenagers and young men over a 30 year period.
“We hope the review will provide answers so that lessons can be learned and never repeated.”