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Clergy released 'Diocese co-operating', police say

"The Church of England, including the Diocese of Chichester, are co-operating fully with police. Although the matters referred to are still subject of police investigation, Sussex Police make it clear that the force will always take seriously any allegations of historic sexual offending, and every possible step will be taken to investigate whenever appropriate.

"Allegations of historic offences are treated just as seriously as any more recent offences. Police advice and assistance can also obtained by calling Sussex Police on 101 and quoting Operation Dunhill."

– Det Ch Insp Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police

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Arrested clergy released - Sussex Police statement

Sussex Police statement Credit: Sussex Police

The 80-year-old man arrested this morning at his home address near Langport, Somerset, on suspicion of eight sexual offences in East Sussex and in one case elsewhere, during the late 1980s and early 1990's, was released at his home this afternoon on medical advice.

It is our intention to interview him at a later date. The offences were allegedly committed against eight boys and young men, all of whom were at time in their late teens or early twenties, except one who was 12. We will continue pursue allegations of sexual offending robustly.

Investigations must always include proper regard for the health and welfare of suspects, as well as for that of victims, and we also comply with the requirements of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act in relation to the treatment of people under arrest.

The 67-year-old man arrested at his home address near Haywards Heath on suspicion of two separate sexual offences against two boys, aged 17 and 18 at the time, in East Sussex between 1981 and 1983, was interviewed in Sussex and released on police bail late this afternoon while enquiries continue.

The arrests result from a review and subsequent investigation over the past six months.

The investigation follows receipt in May this year from Lambeth Palace of two reports from a Church of England safeguarding consultant.

They contain reviews of church files relating to matters relating to the safeguarding of young people in the Chichester Diocese during the 1980's and early 1990's.

This is a very complex enquiry, in the course of which many people, all now adults, have had to be traced, together with other witnesses and records from a wide variety of sources, and there is continuing consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

There are no allegations of recent or current offending and police emphasise that there is nothing to suggest that any young people are currently at risk. Police also stress that the allegations are being treated separately and do not involve the two men allegedly acting together.

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Ex Bishop of Lewes arrested

A retired Church of England bishop was among two clergymen arrested by police investigating historic allegations of child sex abuse. Meridian understands that Peter Ball, 80, the former Bishop of Lewes, was one of the men arrested.

A second man, an unnamed 67-year-old retired priest, was also detained at his home this morning near Haywards Heath, West Sussex, on suspicion of separate sex offences against two teenage boys in East Sussex between 1981 and 1983, Sussex Police said.

Six-month investigation led to arrests

The arrest of a retired Bishop and a retired priest are the result of a review and six-month investigation by detectives.

In May, Sussex Police received two reports from Lambeth Palace from a Church of England safeguarding consultant, with reviews of Church files on safeguarding young people.

They also received the files themselves. Sussex Police said the investigation was into offences that had not previously been reported. They are trying to trace witnesses and are working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Church of England, including the Diocese of Chichester, are co-operating fully with police. Although the matters referred to are still subject of police investigation, Sussex Police make it clear that the force will always take seriously any allegations of historic sexual offending, and every possible step will be taken to investigate whenever appropriate. Allegations of historic offences are treated just as seriously as any more recent offences. Police advice and assistance can also obtained by calling Sussex Police on 101 and quoting Operation Dunhill."

– Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes, Sussex Police

There are no allegations of recent or current offending and police said no young people are currently at risk. Police have stressed that the allegations are being treated separately and do not involve the two men allegedly acting together.

Police statement on arrests

Sussex Police say an 80-year-old man was arrested at his home near Landport, Somerset, on suspicion of eight sexual offences committed against eight boys and young men, ranging in age from 12 to their early 20s, at addresses in East Sussex and elsewhere, from the late 1980s to early 1990s.

Elsewhere, a 67-year old man was arrested at his home address near Haywards Heath, West Sussex, on suspicion of two separate sexual offences against two teenage boys in East Sussex between 1981 and 1983.

They are currently detained, in Somerset and Sussex respectively, for interview and further enquiries by Sussex Police officers.

Helpline in the wake of arrests

Following news that a retired Bishop and a retired priest in the Chichester diocese have been arrested, a special helpline has been set up for anyone who feels they need support or advice whenever learning of this or any similar cases. The helpline number is 0800 389 5344.

The helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Diocese of Chichester said calls would be handled sensitively and confidentially. Callers can be referred to specially trained police officers and, if required, a range of counselling services.

Our cooperation with Sussex police in this investigation continues our ongoing commitment to do all that is necessary to bring any alleged criminal matters to the attention of the public authorities, and to ensure that the Diocese of Chichester is a safe place for all in our church communities, whilst being an unsafe place for any who may seek to abuse them. As these arrests are part of an ongoing investigation we cannot comment further at this stage."

– Diocese of Chichester statement
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