PRINCE Charles has told an inquiry of his deep regret at supporting a Church of England bishop later jailed for sexual abuse of 18 teenagers and men.

The heir to the throne provided a letter to an independent inquiry in London saying that while he had believed Bishop Peter Ball’s denials, he had never sought to influence a police investigation.

The inquiry is investigating the actions of the Church of England after an earlier inquiry last year found senior church figures covered-up the abuse allegations against the paedophile Ball, who was jailed in 2015 after finally being convicted of abusing his victims over a 30-year period.

Now aged in his late 80s, he is out on parole.

Ball had boasted of his powerful friends and repeatedly bragged about his close friendship with Prince Charles, who will become the global head of the Church of England when he ascends the throne upon the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth.

The inquiry was read extracts from a number of letters exchanged between Ball and Prince Charles when abuse allegations began to surface, including one in 1997 where Charles wrote of a victim: “I’ll see this horrid man off if he tries anything.’’

Two years earlier, in 1995, Prince Charles wrote to Ball: “I wish I could do more. I feel so desperately strong about the monstrous wrongs that have been done to you.” This letter came despite Ball having accepted a police caution for gross indecency.

In a detailed letter to the inquiry read out yesterday, Prince Charles wrote of his “deep personal regret’’ at being “misled’ by Ball.

He said he had met the paedophile bishop in the 1980s and maintained ties with him after he became Bishop of Gloucester, which is the district covering Prince Charles’ private estate Highgrove.

“Peter Ball told me he had been involved in some sort of ‘indiscretion’ which prompted his resignation as my local bishop,’’ Charles wrote in his letter.

He said Ball had told him one individual had complained to police but the Crown Prosecution Service had taken no action.

“Events later demonstrated beyond any doubt, to my deep regret, that I, along with many others, has been misled,’’ Charles said.

“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.”

Prince Charles wrote that his position had occasionally brought him into contact with prominent people who were later accused of serious wrongdoing.

“Rather than rushing to private judgment I have always taken the view that the judicial process should take its course,’’ he told the inquiry through his letter.

He said he ceased all contact with Ball once the “true context and details’’ emerged against him at trial in 2015.

“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,’’ he wrote.