Prince Charles has expressed his “deep personal regret” at being deceived by a disgraced former bishop who has been convicted of sex offences.
In a lengthy written statement, submitted to a UK official inquiry into child abuse on Friday, the heir to the throne described the full extent of his former friendship with Peter Ball, before denying ever trying to influence an investigation into him.
Ball, former Bishop of Gloucester, was convicted in 2015 of abusing 18 men and boys between the 1970s and 1990s.
Prince Charles was friends with him for years before discovering his horrific crimes, and extracts of letters between the two of them from years before have since been released as part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) investigation.
In one letter, written in 1997, the prince told Ball his accuser was a “frightful, terrifying man” who was “up to his dastardly tricks again”. He added: “I’ll see off this horrid man if he tries anything again.”
Meanwhile, according to multiple reports, Ball spoke of a “malicious campaign” against him and “harassment” by “fraudulent” accusers in more letters between them.
At the time, Charles said he was unaware he was being deceived by the bishop – who had told him the allegations against him were false – and admitted his regret when he finally realised he was wrong.
“It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period about the true nature of Mr Ball’s activities,” he wrote in a six-page witness statement, submitted to the inquiry.
While Charles admitted he had occasionally sent Ball small gifts of money following his resignation, he insisted he does that for “many people in need”.
He went on to admit that, in the 1980s and 1990s, there was “a presumption that people such as Bishops could be taken at their word and, as a result of the high office they held, were worthy of trust and confidence”.
Charles reportedly added: “Throughout my life my position has occasionally brought me into contact with prominent people who have subsequently been accused of serious wrong doing.
“Rather than rushing to private judgement I have always taken the view that the judicial process should take its course.”
While the prince admitted he did ask the Archbishop of Canterbury about Ball at the time, he added that “at no stage did I ever seek to influence the outcome of either the police investigations into Peter Ball and nor did I instruct or encourage my staff to do so”.