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Prince Charles expresses 'deep personal regret' over supporting former Bishop convicted of sex offences

The closeness between the Prince of Wales and a former Bishop later convicted of sex offences has been revealed at the official inquiry into child abuse.

Prince Charles provided a written statement about his connection with Peter Ball – a former Bishop of Gloucester.

Ball was convicted in 2015 of abusing 18 men and boys between the 1970s and 1990s.

In extracts of letters published on Friday by the inquiry, the Prince told Ball his accuser was a “frightful, terrifying man” who was “up to his dastardly tricks again".

The Prince adds in the letter to Ball in 1997: “I’ll see off this horrid man if he tries anything again.”

In his statement, Charles said he was unable to recall after so many years, to whom he was referring in that part of his letter.

The Prince also accuses Lambeth Palace – the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury – of being “frightened of the press” for forcing Ball to resign his ministry.

Ball was convicted in 2015 of abusing 18 men and boys between the 1970s and 1990s. Credit: PA

He wrote: “What he [the Archbishop] calls ‘public perception’ [is] in fact, perception of events and characters based entirely on lies, invention and sensation.”

In fact, it was clear it was Peter Ball – not his accuser - who was lying to the Prince.

The Prince of Wales submitted a six page witness statement on Friday – with his signature at the bottom – in which he said: “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."

Charles admits that he did occasionally send Ball and his brother “small gifts of money” after Ball lost his home following his resignation as the Bishop of Gloucester.

The Prince of Wales criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury for forcing Ball to resign his ministry. Credit: PA

But the Prince said, he does that for “many people in need.”

The Prince of Wales also mentioned Ball’s lack of housing to his Duchy of Cornwall estate.

In 1996, the Prince said to Ball in a letter: “I pray the Duchy will be able to find something suitable for you both in due course … I long to see you both settled somewhere that suits you … and not too far from here so you can come over more easily.”

It suggests Ball as a regular visitor to the Prince’s property at Highgrove and the Prince’s statement says that he extended invitations to Peter Ball “to give Holy Communion at my home … from time to time, starting in 1993”.

Ball and his brother later became tenants of a Duchy property in 1997.

Peter Ball was the Bishop of Lewes in the Diocese of Chichester. Credit: PA

The Prince wanted his correspondence and phone calls with Ball to be viewed in the context of “my understanding at the time” which was that Ball had been “falsely accused of a single offence (the nature of which was unknown to me).

Whilst Charles admits that he did take “the opportunity to ask” the Archbishop of Canterbury about Peter Ball, he adds 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".

The statement says that he had only been told by Ball that he had been “involved in some form of ‘indiscretion’," which prompted his resignation.

Prince Charles expressed 'deep personal regret' over his support for Ball. Credit: PA

Charles maintains throughout the statement that he “did not know about the nature of the complaint” and he did not know of them until the time of Mr Ball’s trial and conviction in 2015.

He adds: “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.”

He then writes in the light of recent events: “That has changed over the years”.

The Prince also says he did not know until many years later of the caution that Peter Ball received from the police in 1993 and says that “I was not aware until recently that a caution in fact carries an acceptance of guilt".

Charles concludes by writing that he never rushes to private judgement when individuals have faced allegations and has always “taken the view that the judicial process should take its course".

He wrote: “I am then able to ground my opinions in facts tested by law, rather than hearsay.”