LONDON (AP) — A former Anglican bishop was jailed Wednesday for sexually assaulting teenagers and young men, two decades after he was first accused. At the time, powerful figures in Britain spoke out in support of the bishop, Peter Ball, and he was not charged.
The former Bishop of Lewes, Ball pleaded guilty last month to misconduct in a public office and indecent assault. Prosecutors say he abused 18 victims between the 1970s and the 1990s, all religious young men or aspiring priests.
The first victim came forward in 1992, but Ball, now 83, denied the allegation. Prosecutors say lawmakers, a lord and an unidentified member of the royal family phoned police or wrote letters of support.
Ball was given a police caution — an official warning — and resigned his post, but was later allowed to resume clerical duties.
Police reopened the case in 2012 after more victims came forward. Sentencing Ball to 32 months in prison, judge Alan Wilkie said "what you did was the antithesis of what was expected of someone holding your office."
The Church of England apologized, saying "there are no excuses whatsoever for what took place." Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has ordered an investigation into how the church handled the allegations against Ball.
Lawyer Richard Scorer, who represents several of Ball's victims, said his jailing was "little comfort" to those he abused.
"The way in which senior clergy and establishment figures — including (members of Parliament), Cabinet ministers and members of the royal family — closed ranks around him has only compounded his victims' anguish," Scorer said.