The Crown Prosecution Service has admitted that retired Anglican bishop Peter Ball should have been charged with sex offences in 1993.
Last Tuesday Ball, 83, pleaded guilty to 18 charges of sex abuse involving men between the 1970s and 1990s.
He also pleaded guilty to the offence of misconduct in public office between 1977 and 1992.
Ball had previously failed in an attempt to get the case dismissed on the grounds that he accepted a caution in 1993 and was assured there would be no future action over the allegations.
Now it has been revealed by a reporter from The Times newspaper Sean O’Neill, who attended last week’s trial at the Old Bailey, that the CPS believe Ball should have been charged despite the director of public prosecutions at the time, Dame Barbara Mills ordering a caution despite “sufficient admissible, substantial and reliable evidence” to charge him.
In a statement to the court, the CPS said: "In order to prosecute this offence today, we have had to conclude that the decision to caution was wrong - there was sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest to prosecute at the time.
"Furthermore, in order for a caution to be given, a suspect must first make full and frank admissions to the alleged offence ... such admissions were not made in the appropriate way."
Ball, now of Langport in Somerset, was Bishop of Lewes between 1977 and 1992 and Bishop of Gloucester from 1992 until his resignation the following year.
The former bishop is due to be sentenced on 7 October.