Former Bishop admits abusing young men hoping to become priests

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A former Church of England bishop has pleaded guilty to indecent assault – admitting to pursuing men and young boys who were hoping to become priests.

Peter Ball, the ex-Bishop of Lewes, admitted indecent assault and misconduct in public office in a trial at the Old Bailey yesterday.

The retired clergyman, 83, admitted to two counts of indecent assault on two males – between 1980 and 1983 and between 1990 and 1991.

However, he denied two further charges of indecent assault on a boy aged 12 or 13, and a 15-year-old boy.

Police say that Ball had abused young men, many of whom were training become priests themselves. The misconduct charge relates to sexual offences at his East Sussex home, while serving as bishop of Lewes.

Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police said concerns had been raised in May 2012 about the historic behaviour of the retired bishop.

He said: “It became clear that under the guise of his status as a bishop, Ball had systematically abused the trust of the victims, many of whom who were aspiring priests, whilst others were simply seeking to explore their spirituality.

“He abused that trust and used religion, through his Give A Year For Christ scheme, as a cloak behind which to carry out his grooming activity, the principal aim of which was to satisfy his sexual interest in and desire for young men.”

He will be sentenced on October 7.

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