THE Prince of Wales has been asked to submit a witness statement to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) regarding his relationship to the disgraced former Bishop of Gloucester Peter Ball.
The Inquiry is investigating the extent to which the Church of England has failed to protect children from sexual abuse. A previous hearing, in March, used the diocese of Chichester as a case-study (News, 9 March). Peter Ball will be the subject of a second three-week public hearing next month.
Ball received a three-year sentence in October 2015, having admitted to a series of indecent assaults and the abuse of 18 young men aged 17-25. One of his victims took his own life. Ball, who is 86, was released in February last year after serving 16 months of his sentence.
During a preliminary hearing for the Ball case in London on Wednesday morning, the lead counsel to the investigation, Fiona Scolding QC, said that witness statements had been requested from both Prince Charles and his private secretary.
She said: “The Prince’s solicitors have indicated their client’s willingness to assist us and have raised a number of important issues for us to consider. This has led to lengthy and complex discussions and we are currently considering the latest points they have raised.”
Prince Charles had previously been described by Ball as a loyal friend, and the men were in correspondance while Ball was Bishop of Gloucester in the 1990s. Highgrove Estate, the private residence of the prince, is within the diocese.
An independent review into Ball case carried out by Dame Moira Gibb and published last year dismisses allegations that any member of the royal family intervened on Ball’s behalf (News, 30 June).
“Ball himself, both in his correspondence and in his public statements, sought to exploit his contact with members of the Royal Family in order to bolster his position, particularly in the eyes of Lord Carey and others from whom he hoped to receive sympathetic treatment,” it says.
“We have reviewed all the relevant material including the correspondence passing between the Prince of Wales and Ball held by the Church and found no evidence that the Prince of Wales or any other member of the Royal Family sought to intervene at any point in order to protect or promote Ball.”
The Inquiry has received 206,863 pages of material relating to the Anglican investigation, of which 50,222 pages relate to Ball.
The forthcoming hearing will investigate why the Church failed to take steps to investigate allegations made against Ball between 1992 and 1993; why he was cautioned rather than prosecuted for offending in 1992; and whether “improper pressure” was placed on persons in the Crown Prosecution Service, police, and the Church of England by prominent public figures.
The CPS; the former Bishop of Chichester, Dr John Hind; the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds; and Peter Ball himself have been named among the core participants. Evidence had also been obtained by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and former holders of the post, Ms Scolding said.
A report concerning the diocese of Chichester and Ball case studies is due to be produced during the autumn, or by the end of this year.