England

Bishop Peter Ball 'a sadistic, sexual predator'

Peter Ball in 1992 Image copyright PA
Image caption Ball continued to work in the church after it was known he had committed sexual abuse

Retired bishop Peter Ball - who has been jailed for 32 months after admitting abusing 18 young men across 20 years - was a sadistic sexual predator who groomed, controlled and abused his victims, one of whom ended up taking his own life.

Ball, 83, was part of the establishment of the Church of England, considered both powerful and deeply spiritual.

He abused most of his victims while he lived in East Sussex and was serving as Bishop of Lewes - but would go on to carry on the abuse as Bishop of Gloucester.

He admitted the abuse, which started in the 1970s and continued into the 80s and 90s, at the Old Bailey last month.

'Chose victims cleverly'

Det Ch Insp Carwyn Hughes, of Sussex Police, said: "It took me by complete surprise that we ended up with so many people - it showed the extent of his offending.

"He would strike upon the vulnerable whenever he had the opportunity to do so."

The court heard Ball invited men to stay with him at his home to pursue religious interests in a monastic setting.

Cliffe James, aged 19 at the time, explained how Ball groomed him over many months.

"He prepared his victims and he chose them very cleverly - people who were vulnerable, unsure of their identities," Mr James said, after waiving his right to anonymity.

"He was sadistic. He would beat me with a wooden clothes brush. I was bruised and would be in great pain for days."

He explained Ball also insisted he shower naked in front of him, suggesting he needed to overcome his pride and humiliate himself, "following in the example of Christ and St Francis".

Despite the years of abuse in Sussex, Ball was able to leave the diocese in 1992 to take up his post as the Bishop of Gloucester.

'Mind games'

A year later however, then 16-year-old trainee monk Neil Todd prompted a police investigation, which led to Ball's resignation from the clergy.

But Ball escaped with a police caution in 1993 for a single act of gross indecency against Mr Todd.

Speaking from his home in Australia in 2012, Mr Todd described Ball as "not a very nice human being".

"The worst of it was mental abuse," said Mr Todd. "Obviously there was a component of sexual abuse but basically it was mind games and controlling behaviour.

"It stayed with me throughout my life's journey."

He said it took many years to convince people he was telling the truth.

Ultimately, after continuing to be haunted by his experiences, Mr Todd killed himself in 2012.

Another victim, the Reverend Graham Sawyer, described how on a visit in the 1970s, Ball tried to take off his clothes and wanted an "act of commitment" from him if he was to be ordained.

'Cloak of spirituality'

"The abuse started with very heavy suggestions that I remove my clothes and be completely naked in front of him," Mr Sawyer said.

He said Ball was a "monster" who controlled him with a "cloak of spirituality".

Ball was also in regular contact with Eastbourne vicar Reverend Roy Cotton, a convicted child abuser, who died in 2006.

Phil Johnson was one of those Cotton abused. He also claims Ball abused him in front of Cotton - something that Ball denies.

He said: "He was Roy Cotton's boss. It made me believe that everyone in the church knew about it and it made me completely powerless.

"Because of that, I had to endure another seven years of abuse."

The Church of England insists it is now a safe place and is carrying out an inquiry into Ball's activities.

It has apologised to survivors of the abuse and paid tribute to "their bravery in coming forward and the long wait for justice that they have endured".

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