The former Bishop of Gloucester, Peter Ball, has pled guilty to sexually abusing 18 young men between 1977 and 1992.
Appearing via videolink before Mr. Justice Sweeney at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) in London from the Taunton Crown Court, Ball admitted he had misused his authority as a bishop to “manipulate and prevail upon others for his own sexual gratification” and to having indecently assaulted two other teenaged boys between 1980 and 1983 and 1990 and 1991. Ball denied two other counts of indecent assault on a boy of 12 or 13 and a 15-year-old youth and will not be pursued by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Appointed suffragan Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester in 1977, Ball was translated to Gloucester in 1992. The following year he resigned as Bishop of Gloucester after accepting a caution from police for having committed an act of gross indecency against a teenager. The now 83 year old bishop was licensed to officiate at church services following his resignation, but has not had the licence renewed since 2010.
Following his admission of guilt, Mr. Justice Sweeney lifted the gag on press coverage of the case, and it was revealed that earlier this year Ball’s attorneys had sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that the CPS had promised in 1993 there would be no further investigations if the bishop accepted a police caution.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, testified that he had telephoned the head of the CPS asking if there would be further investigations should new evidence be uncovered of abuse. Lord Carey stated he had been told by the CPS the affair was concluded.
However after the Church of England passed its files to the Sussex Police in 2012, detectives arrested Ball at his Somerset home in November 2012 as part of Operation Dunhill.
Bishop Ball retained the support of several church leaders following his resignation in 1993. The late Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Eric Kemp, was skeptical of the veracity of the charges brought against him. In his 2006 memoirs, Shy But Not Retiring, Bishop Kemp stated: “Although it was not realized at the time, the circumstances which led to his early resignation were the work of mischief makers.”
In a statement released following the 1993 resignation, Archbishop Carey said: “Bishop Peter is a highly gifted and original man who has inspired many people to deepen their faith in Jesus Christ. However, given that he has accepted the caution, his resignation is a responsible decision made in the best interests of the diocese of Gloucester and the wider Church.”
However, an Evangelical leader in General Synod, the Rev. Tony Higton, chastised Archbishop Carey weak condemnation of Bishop Ball. Writing in the Christian Herald, Mr. Higton said some of the abuses committed by the bishop had taken place in the context of worship and prayer, making them blasphemous.
In a statement released on 8 Sept 2015 the Sussex Police 22 years later echoed Mr. Higton’s concerns. Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes stated:
“It became clear that under the guise of his status as a Bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality. He abused that trust and used religion, through his ‘Give a Year for Christ’ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.”