Radio Sandwell News

Former bishop and retired priest arrested over abuse claims

2012-11-13 16:58:21

Peter Ball

A former Church of England bishop and a retired priest have been arrested on suspicion of sex abuse.

The Right Reverend Peter Ball, a former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester, is being held on suspicion of abusing eight boys and men in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was arrested at his home near Langport, Somerset.

Retired Church of England priest Vickery House, 67, was arrested at his home near Haywards Heath, West Sussex,

A spokesman for Sussex Police said the allegations against the two men were being dealt with separately.

Teenage boys

The arrests follow a police investigation which started when the Church of England passed on two reports on the safeguarding of young people in the Chichester Diocese during the 1980s and early 1990s. The diocese includes Lewes.

The 80-year-old former bishop, who resigned in 1993, was arrested over allegations of sexual abuse at properties in East Sussex and elsewhere.

Mr House, 67, was arrested on suspicion of two sexual offences involving two teenage boys in East Sussex, between 1981 and 1983.

Det Ch Insp Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police said: "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."

Child protection inquiry

The Diocese of Chichester confirmed Sussex detectives had made the two arrests on Tuesday.

"These arrests relate to allegations of sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.

"We can confirm that the retired bishop has had no ministry in Sussex for many years and no longer lives in this area.

"The retired priest has had his permission to officiate suspended," it said in a statement.

The statement said the diocese had been working closely with Sussex Police.

"Our co-operation 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."

The diocese is currently subject to a "visitation process" which includes an inquiry into its child protection policies.

Under the process, its powers and authority have been taken over by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Three former Church of England priests from the diocese have been charged this year with sexual offences against children.

A 24-hour helpline manned by staff at the children's charity NSPCC has been set up on 0800 389 5344.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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