Lawyers for the Prince of Wales used human rights law to object to block efforts to compel him to send a witness statement. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.
Lawyers for the Prince of Wales used human rights law to object to block efforts to compel him to send a witness statement. Picture: Chris Jackson/Getty Images.

Prince Charles fought call for evidence at sex inquiry

PRINCE Charles has refused to submit evidence to a child sexual abuse inquiry in the UK that is examining how allegations against a disgraced former Church of England bishop were handled.

The inquiry is currently hearing evidence relating to abuse carried out by Peter Ball, who knew the prince and exchanged letters with him.

Lawyers for the Prince of Wales used human rights law to block efforts to compel him to send a witness statement instead sending a signed letter, The Telegraph reports.

Fiona Scolding, lead counsel to the investigation into the Anglican Church, said that his lawyers had previously argued that compelling him to give evidence was outside its powers.

Now 86, the former bishop of Lewes and then Gloucester was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 for sexually abusing 18 young men over 30 years.

He was released in February last year after serving half his sentence behind bars.

The inquiry is examining how the Church of England handled allegations of sexual abuse and has previously focused on the Diocese of Chichester - where Ball and several other convicted paedophile priests once officiated.

Ms Scolding said: "Despite lengthy correspondence, including assertions from the Prince's solicitors that the Inquiry's requests for evidence were outside its powers, i.e. 'ultra vires', there was never any suggestion at any point that the statement would be provided by letter."

The prince's law firm Harbottle & Lewis argued that asking for a witness statement was "unfair", and constituted a request for "intensely private and confidential" personal data.

The Prince will not give evidence in person but will have the statement read out at the hearing on Friday.

According to The Telegraph, the prince's statement is expected to say that he was "not aware at the time of the significance or impact of the caution that Peter Ball had accepted", including the fact that a caution involves admission of guilt.

Previously Clarence House reportedly said it did not believe the correspondence between Ball and the future king - whose Highbury country residence sits in the Diocese of Gloucester over which the bishop once presided - had any bearing on the issues before the inquiry but did not object to them being shared for consideration.

Ball's sentence came 22 years after the abuse allegation first surfaced. He eventually admitted misconduct in a public office and two counts of indecent assault.

The court heard that Ball convinced some of his victims to strip naked to pray and even suggested they submit to beatings between 1977 and 1992.

The first of his victims to come forward took his own life in 2012 after hearing that Sussex Police had reopened the case.