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Former Anglican bishop heads to prison for sexual assaulting young men

A London court has sentenced a former Anglican bishop to prison for sexually abusing young men. The presiding judge said the abuse was committed "under the guise of it being part of an austere regime of devotion."

Former Anglican Bishop Peter Ball on Wednesday was sentenced to 32 months in prison for sexually assaulting 15 young men between the ages of 17 and 25 during his tenure from 1977 to 1992.

Ball, who served in the Church of England as the bishop of Lewes, was first accused of sexual abuse by one of the victims in 1992.

The former bishop escaped prosecution following interventions from lawmakers, a senior judge and an unidentified member of the royal family.

Police issued Ball a warning in 1993 for committing an act of gross indecency, leading to his resignation.

"You pursued selected individuals to commit or submit to acts of physical or sexual debasement under the guide of it being part of an austere regime of devotion," Wilkie said during Ball's sentencing at London's Old Bailey on Wednesday.

"You expressly accept that you obtained sexual gratification from the deliberate manipulation of vulnerable young men and that your frequent contact, over a period of time, with most of your victims was of a kind consistent with grooming," Wilkie added.

One of the victims attempted to kill himself several times when reports emerged in 1992 of Ball's acts, leading the man to commit suicide in 2012, when the case was reopened, Wilkie said.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby announced that an investigation will be launched into how the allegations were treated by the Church of England.

ls/sms (Reuters, AP)

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