Chair of abuse inquiry angry at leak of Prince Charles’s testimony

27 July 2018

PA

Princes Charles (centre), and his sons, Prince William left) and Prince Harry, pictured outside the Highgrove Estate, in the diocese of Gloucester, in 1999

Princes Charles (centre), and his sons, Prince William left) and Prince Harry, pictured outside the Highgrove Estate, in the diocese of Gloucester, in...

CORE participants of the hearing being conducted by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) into the case of Peter Ball were censured this week, after a written statement from the Prince of Wales was leaked to the press.

At the start of the week-long hearing on Monday, the chair of the Inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay, expressed her disappointment at the “serious breach of confidence” after the contents of a draft statement from the Prince was seen by The Times last Friday. It was later seen by the BBC.

The evidence, due to be read out on Friday, had been disclosed to core participants on 9 July, Professor Jay said (News, 7 June). She had established an investigation, and core participants would be questioned about the breach, she said.

“The panel is disappointed by the leaking of the draft statement. Deliberate leaking of information to the media before evidence is made public by the Inquiry not only undermines the ability of the Inquiry to get to the truth, but can also erode confidence in the Inquiry at all levels.”

Prince Charles, who was in correspondence with Ball while he was Bishop of Gloucester, will not be questioned. The lead counsel to the Anglican investigation, Fiona Scolding QC, explained that this was because his evidence, while important, was not central to the Inquiry.

Ball was Bishop of Gloucester for only a few months before his arrest in 1992. He resigned the next year after accepting a police caution, having admitted indecent assault.

In the statement, Prince Charles says that he was aware around the time of the police caution that Ball had been involved in an “indiscretion”, and was told by Ball himself that an individual with a grudge had been “persecuting” the bishop.

“I was certainly not aware at the time of the significance or impact of the caution,” the Prince’s statement says. “Whilst I note that Peter Ball mentioned the word in a letter to me in October 2009, I was not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt.”

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In his opening remarks, a lawyer representing six survivors of Ball, Richard Scorer QC, criticised Prince Charles for not making efforts to check the position of Ball in 1993, after the Bishop accepted a caution.

“This extraordinary lack of curiosity looks like wilful blindness. . . He failed in that responsibility and therefore failed the victims.”

It also emerged that the Prince had declined to submit an official witness statement, verified by a statement of truth, to the Inquiry, and submitted a signed letter instead.

Mr Scorer said: “This will inevitably raise concerns that the letter may be less than entirely frank about his relationship with Peter Ball and that it contains matters to which he is reluctant to attach a formal statement of truth.”

Ms Scolding responded, saying that the Inquiry and legal team of the Prince had been locked in “lengthy and extensive correspondence” over the format of the document, which eventually came as a letter.

The Prince’s lawyers had argued that the Inquiry had “no power” to demand a witness statement under law, she explained, since it involved releasing “intensely private or confidential” personal data. It was agreed that the letter be accepted, since it covered “all of the topics that the Inquiry wished to see addressed” by the witness.

Lord Carey said in his evidence on Tuesday that the arrest of Ball in 1992 had created a “perfect storm” because, at the same time, he was dealing with the “constitutional crisis in the break-up of Prince Charles and Princess Diana”, and the ordination of women on the horizon. He dismissed suggestions that Ball had been a marriage counsellor for the royal couple.

Data breach. IICSA is to be fined £200,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for a serious data breach which led to the exposure of anonymous victims of abuse, it was reported last week.

An email sent to members of a victims’ forum listed 90 addresses in the “to” field instead of the “Bcc” field, meaning that the recipients could see who else the email had been sent to. More than 50 of the email addresses listed contained the full names of the participants or had a full name label attached, the ICO report states.

IICSA said in a statement: “The inquiry takes its data protection obligations very seriously and we have apologised to those affected by the data breach.”

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