Victim of disgraced paedophile Bishop Peter Ball claims he felt 'lucky' to be in his presence due to his friendship with Prince Charles in a new documentary

By Monica Greep
January 13, 2020

A victim of the disgraced paedophile Peter Ball has claimed the bishop's friendship with Prince Charles made him 'impregnable'.

Cliff James first met the bishop at the age of 17 while interviewing to become part of Littlington, his residential project established in 1977 for young people in need of 'spiritual guidance'. He later permanently moved into the Lewes home. 

At the age of 18, Cliff's relationship with Ball quickly took a disturbing turn as the religious figure began 'grooming' him and making him feel 'guilty' if he did not do what he asked. 

In the new BBC2 documentary Exposed: The Church's Darkest Secret, Cliff told of the abuse he endured at the hands of Ball within the home, including taking part in 'humiliation' rituals while naked, being ceremoniously beaten and forced to take part in mutual masturbation. 

Cliff recalled: 'If I let him down and didn't want to do those things, he would rub his bald head and say, "Never mind, I thought Christ had chosen you for a very special reason, but don't worry, very few people are chosen for the holy life."

'Of course by saying that he made me feel incredibly guilty and that I'd let down God - so I would do everything to try and make it up to him.'   

He spoke of the close friendship Ball had with Prince Charles, whom he claims viewed the bishop as his 'counsel', and argued his affiliation with royalty enforced the idea that the bishop was 'special'. Charles later expressed 'deep personal regret' for trusting Ball.

David Greenwood, a solicitor for the survivors of Ball, spoke of how the disgraced bishop spent 'years' cultivating relationships with those in power, such as former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. 

Cliff recalled: 'He said how well he got on with the Queen Mother. Peter kept mentioning his friendship with Prince Charles in a flippant way, as anyone would talk about their friends. 

'But he was having a friendship with Prince Charles; here was somebody who one minute was friends with somebody as low down as me, the next minute he was dropping into the conversation he's counselor to royalty. It just reinforced his specialness and the idea that he's impregnable (sic).'

Ball was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and became Bishop of Gloucester in 1992 to 1993, in a ceremony attended by Prince Charles. 

Mr Greenwood recalled: 'Peter Ball was an active socialite, he had spent years ingratiating himself with members of the establishment.

'He had cultivated a friendship with Margaret Thatcher, he went round to High Grove to say prayers with Prince Charles. 

'They exchanged letters, Peter Ball became Charles Windsor's friend; he courted people in public office.' 

Ball was jailed at the Old Bailey in 2015 for sexual offences against 18 young men over three decades, before being released after 16 months. In November last year an inquest heard he died at his Somerset home aged 87 after a fall. 

Cliff told how he was 'ripe' for the taking upon meeting the bishop, in desperate need of a father figure, and admitted he felt 'incredibly lucky' to be in the presence of Ball. 

'When I turned up on his doorstep I was ripe in terms of seeking a father figure, full of self-hatred, having always felt like the outsider, having always wanted to live a special life in that I wanted to help others,' said Cliff. 

'I wanted to live a meaningful life and Peter offered all of those things and made me feel incredibly lucky and chosen.'

Cliff revealed that the Bishop would watch him take showers, and in an attempt to 'overcome the temptation of desire'.

'He said, "For this one time we will hug naked," as it was humiliation, the wearing away of one's pride and one's ego and one's reservations,' Cliff explained. 

'That involved being in his room, stripping naked, kneeling down, and then he hugged me and I just waited for this ordeal to be over.'  

Cliff said the bishop would also tell him 'suffering was essential' and convinced him to take part in mutual masturbation, in order to replicate the 'suffering of Christ'.

'Peter would rub his head and say, "What can we do to really enter into the suffering of Christ, what can we do? What can you think of? Something so disgusting, so humiliating, can you think?"

'And I would say, "No," and he would say, "I don't know, perhaps even masturbating each other, something so disgusting that you feel really humiliated." 

'Suffering is very essential, and Peter's justification to why we had to suffer is that Christ suffered.'

He added that one of the things the bishop got pleasure from was seeing his resistance break down, meaning he agreed to things he did not want to go through with.

'Because I felt so ashamed and guilty, I agreed to be beaten and it was done ceremonially, it was in the evening,' Cliff said.

'He asked me to strip off and he stripped off. It was really, really painful. He said he would hit me 10 times, and he really went for it. 

'There was one occasion, I just fell over because it was so painful. The first time when it was over, he offered to rub something into my backside, some cream. 

'Afterwards something strange stood out. He said, "Now let's have a hug to take away the sexual aspect of it."'

Exposed: The Church's Darkest Secret airs tonight on BBC Two at 9pm. 

Prince Charles' full statement to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Dear Professor Jay

1. Thank you for inviting me to offer context on how I came to know former Bishop Peter Ball and on my dealings with him over the years, to assist your important Inquiry. I want to begin by applauding your work to ensure that the abuse of children is properly investigated and appropriate measures are taken to ensure they are fully protected. That is why I am pleased, on this occasion, to offer the following information, which I have set out to the best of my recollection after the passage of 25 years.

2. Over the years I have had, and continue to have, many interactions with the Clergy of the Church of England and of other Faiths, often on a daily basis. Set in that context, I first became aware of Peter Ball sometime during the 1980s, when I heard him preach. At that time, he came across as an interesting and engaging person. He was later appointed Bishop of Gloucester, in 1992. Since he had become my local Diocesan Bishop, near my home in Gloucestershire, I attended his Installation. He gave an impressive Address, which brought him to my attention again. At the same time I recall becoming aware of Michael Ball (Peter Ball's brother) who was later appointed Bishop of Truro, to which I am also closely connected through the Duchy of Cornwall. Over the whole of my life, I have met countless senior Clergy who have been invited to preach and, on various occasions, I have myself invited them to give Holy Communion at my home. I extended such invitations to Peter Ball from time to time, starting in 1993.

3. As is well known, I maintain correspondence relationships with a great number of individuals. Peter Ball occasionally wrote to me in respect of private, often spiritual, matters. On each occasion I naturally replied as I believe that to be the polite thing to do, although there was often a significant delay on my part given other priorities which demanded my attention. My recollection is that these exchanges were normally instigated and driven by Peter Ball, in addition to a handful of telephone calls during the decades of our correspondence. Having refreshed my memory of our correspondence to try to help your Inquiry, I note this is borne out by the contents and dates of the letters in question.

4. With the significant passage of time, I cannot now recall with sufficient certainty when the following exchange took place and whether there was one particular conversation that concerned the reflections I offer below or more than one.

5. Peter Ball told me that he had been involved in some form of 'indiscretion', which prompted his resignation as my local Bishop at Gloucester. He emphasised that one individual, who I now understand to be Mr Neil Todd, had made a complaint to the Police; that the Police had investigated the matter; and that the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service had decided to take no action. This sequence of events seemed to support Mr Ball's claim that the complaint emanated from a single individual; that the individual bore a grudge against him and was 'persecuting' him; that the complaint was false; but that the individual had nonetheless profited from the complaint by selling his story to the newspapers. The matter was described by him as 'closed'. Peter Ball added that various people within the Church did not like him and had themselves used the complaint to curtail his ministry and force his resignation. When this exchange took place, I did not know about the nature of the complaint.

6. The true context and details of this complaint, and I now understand many others, against Peter Ball did not come to my attention until the time of Mr Ball's trial and conviction in 2015. My main source of information before this was Mr Ball himself, though I should add that I was so fully occupied by my public role that Mr Ball's situation was rarely at the front of my mind. As context, it seems important to say that in the 1980's and 1990's 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. That has changed over the years, as evidence has caused us all to be more challenging of what we hear and what we are told. But, at the time, there was on my part a presumption of good faith. I believe I was far from alone in taking this view.

7. I was certainly not aware at the time of the significance or impact of the caution that Peter Ball has accepted, or indeed sure if I was even told about it. 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. I was aware that the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to pursue a case against Mr Ball. This seemed to support Mr Ball's defence of his position set out in his letter.

8. I recall that Peter Ball told me that following his resignation as Bishop of Gloucester he would lose the house in which he lived and that, as a consequence, both he and his brother Michael would become homeless. He told me that their monastic vows meant they had very little money. In this context, I occasionally sent the brothers small gifts of money, as I do for many people in need, and Pete Ball's interest in becoming a tenant of a Duchy of Cornwall property then arose. A significant part of the Duchy's business is in arranging and managing leases for properties and I mentioned the situation of the Ball brothers to the Duchy, as I do for others from time to time. The details of the eventual rental were handled, as usual, by Duchy staff. I was aware of the transaction but did not assist with the selection of the house. Some time later, in 1997, Peter and Michael Ball became tenants of a Duchy property until early in 2011, when they moved on.

Police investigations

9. At no stage did I ever seek to influence the outcome of either of the Police investigations into Peter Ball and nor did I instruct or encourage my staff to do so.

10. I understand from document ANG000021 that a member of Gloucestershire Police seems to recall that he 'came under pressure' in 1992 or 1993 which related in some way to some form of interest from myself and my staff in Peter Ball. This is untrue. Indeed, at the time of this Police investigation I had no knowledge of these particular matters. It follows, therefore, that I did not authorise - and could not have authorised - any such action. And nor would I have done.

11. Likewise, I have no recollection of any contact by one of my Personal Protection Officers or indeed any member of my staff with Gloucestershire Police. I was clear at the time, as I have remained clear, that the Police must be able to carry out their investigation in the proper manner without external pressure or influence. We have looked at our files and can find no record of any of these matters. It is always possible that my name was taken in vain, as can unfortunately happen from time to time. As I make clear elsewhere in this Statement, there is a gap between rumour and fact.

12. In a similar vein, I do not recall receiving a letter from Michael Ball in April 2013 as described by Detective Superintendent Carwyn Hughes (OHY000203). Having looked at our files we cannot find any record of such a letter. The occasional letters that I did receive from Michael Ball were of private and social nature and I am not aware of any interest from Sussex Police in this correspondence. Nevertheless, I have made available to you copies of the private correspondence received from Michael Ball, in case that could help your Inquiry in any way. I understand that a conversation took place between Sussex Police and the Metropolitan Police Royalty Protection team in 2013, and that Sussex Police informed the Metropolitan Police that they visited Peter Ball's home and removed items which included a letter sent from me. I believe the Metropolitan Police asked whether or not this letter was relevant to the inquiry. I further understand that the Metropolitan Police emphasised clearly that they were not enquiring about the investigation itself and specifically wished to avoid any appearance of influence over it. They wished only to establish the facts about the property that had been removed and its correct ownership. The Metropolitan Police were told that the letter in question was not relevant and that it was to be returned by Sussex Police to Peter Ball.

The Church of England

13. Probably late in 1994 (although I cannot now be certain of the date) I recall seeing the then-Archbishop of Canterbury at an event and taking that opportunity to ask, among other issues, about Peter Ball as he had lately been my local Bishop. I remember the Archbishop was supportive of Peter Ball and thought him a good man and priest. I do not think we discussed any detail, though I recall that the Archbishop was perhaps thinking of 'trying to bring [Peter Ball] back to a public ministry' at some stage. I understood there were some complications, but these were not described. As this was clearly a matter for Church authorities, I took no personal position on it.

14. Other than this conversation with the then-Archbishop, I do not recall any specific conversations regarding Peter Ball, although I was aware that Mr Ball was himself keen to persuade the Church to 'restore [him] to some form of Ministry in the Church'. The general view of members of the Clergy who occasionally mentioned him to me was that he was a capable and well-liked priest.

15. The Inquiry has asked about a note made by Andrew Purkis, of Lambeth Palace, following a lunch he had with my then-Private Secretary, Richard Aylard, on 30th August 1994 (ACE003034). My Private Secretary meets regularly with members of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Office to discuss a range of matters. Having reviewed the document it is clear that the meeting took place in the normal course of business and was for the purpose of discussing matters other than Mr Ball. I cannot shed any light on what appears to be a brief mention of Mr Ball at the end of the meeting. I have no recollection of discussing the matter. I have also been shown a copy of my letter of 14th December 2001 addressed to Peter Ball. As far as I can recall, this letter conveyed that I could not assist Peter Ball in any approach he was thinking of making to the Archbishop to seek a return to public ministry. I recall Peter Ball repeating this request around this time and again some time later and my declining to assist. It follows therefore that I was not involved in 'any discussion with Lambeth Palace' on this matter.

Contact with Institutions

16. You have asked about contact between myself and institutions in respect of Peter Ball between 1993 and 2015. To the best of my knowledge and belief I have dealt with these contacts in the information I have volunteered above, and I can only hope this will be of some assistance to you.

17. I have been shown an extract from an interview conducted by the Chair of the Church of England's Inquiry into Peter Ball last year, Dame Moira Gibb, with Elizabeth Hall of the Church of England, suggested there were some rumours of an interest from me in Peter Ball being given some alternative employment (INQ000682). I can confirm that this is untrue: not for the first time, and as the Gibb Inquiry concluded in respect of my contacts with Peter Ball over the years, there is a gap between rumour and fact. I did not seek any such roles for Mr Ball and did not ask others to do so on my behalf.

18. I regret that I am unable to shed any light on references made in a letter dated 23rd March 1997 to a 'horrid man' or a 'frightful and terrifying man'. This seems to be a manner of speaking in the midst of a long letter written more than twenty years ago. I do recall that Peter Ball felt that numerous individuals, including his critics in the media, were doing all in their power to disadvantage him unfairly. I suspect, but cannot be certain, that the reference is to this issue in some way. It of course needs to be read in the context of my understanding at the time, namely that Peter Ball had been falsely accused of a single offence (the nature of which was unknown to me) by an individual whom the relevant judicial authorities and many others had themselves not believed. Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, had been misled and the reverse was true. At the time, however, it would have followed that people seeking to disadvantage Peter Ball, including from gaining employment, were behaving unfairly. What I can say with certainty is that I did not express this view to anyone else or take any action associated with it.

19. In conclusion, I would like to state that, 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. I am then able to ground my opinions in facts tested by law, rather than hearsay. In many cases, including two very prominent cases of false accusation last year, this has proved a sensible course. It follows that I ceased contact with Mr Ball once the judicial process had concluded and he was found guilty of serious offences against young people. My heart goes out to the victims of abuse and I applaud their courage as they rebuild their lives and, so often, offer invaluable support to others who have suffered. It remains a source of deep personal regret that I was one of many who were deceived over a long period of time about the true nature of Mr Ball's activities. That is why I wanted to volunteer the facts in this letter, which I believe to be true, in the hope that they might be able to help your important work.

Yours sincerely


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