Prince of Wales regrets being ‘deceived’ by shamed bishop Peter Ball
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.
His statement came after Charles’s actions were described in an official report as “misguided”.
The scathing findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) accused the Church of England of “putting its own reputation above the needs of victims” and offering secrecy and protection for abusers that allowed them to “hide in plain sight”.
It 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” while victims were largely ignored.
“Clericalism and tribalism” pervaded the church, the IICSA said, affording offenders protection and resulting in an abuse of power.
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’s 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.
It was not until 22 years later that Ball finally admitted his crimes.
He was jailed in 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men over three decades.
In a series of letters between the prince and Ball, Charles said he felt “so desperately strongly about the monstrous wrongs that have been done” to Ball following complaints in 1995 that he had been unable to return to ministry.
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.”
The prince, 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.
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 report said Charles “should have recognised the potential effect that his apparent support for Peter Ball (returning to ministry) 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: “He must have been fully aware of the power and influence that his support would bring.”
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’s intervention and support for Ball but welcome the fact that the inquiry did not shy away from highlighting his role in this scandal.”
This phase of the inquiry, which continues next month, focused on evidence against the Diocese of Chichester and against Ball.
it found “a number of serious failings” following allegations of child sexual abuse dating back more than 40 years.
The 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.
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.
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?”