Bishop of Lewes Wallace Benn under investigation

BBC News/November 10, 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury's office is set to investigate a complaint made against the Bishop of Lewes.

The Diocese of Chichester's safeguarding advisory group has written to Lambeth Palace about the Rt Rev Wallace Benn.

The BBC was told the complaint against the bishop had been made under the clergy discipline measures.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has to decide whether to dismiss the complaint or continue the disciplinary process.

He has 28 days to make the decision.

A statement from the Diocese of Chichester said: "The Diocese of Chichester is aware that the diocesan independent Safeguarding Advisory Group has made a complaint to the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning Bishop Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes.

"As we understand it, the matter now rests with the Archbishop of Canterbury's office."

A spokesman for Lambeth Palace declined to comment. Priestly duties

Bishop Benn apologised in June following a Church-commissioned report by Baroness Butler-Sloss, which examined how senior clergy dealt with historical claims of abuse by two paedophile priests.

The report looked into the cases of Roy Cotton and Colin Pritchard, who abused children in the 1970s and 1980s.

Pritchard served as the vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, until 2007 - after he was arrested over sex abuse claims. In 2008 he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys and was jailed for five years.

Cotton was ordained in 1966, despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s, and went on to abuse at least 10 boys from Eastbourne.

Cotton died in 2006, two weeks before Pritchard was arrested.

In 1999, the year when Cotton retired as a priest, Bishop Benn gave him permission to continue with his priestly duties.

Apparent inaccuracies in the Butler-Sloss review came to light after a BBC investigation.

The bishop told the baroness that he had given Cotton permission to officiate in 1999 to permit him to celebrate communion in the nursing home where he was then living.

But the BBC discovered he was not admitted to the nursing home until September 2003.

The complaint against the bishop is being compiled by the safeguarding advisory group of the Diocese Of Chichester, an independent group responsible for scrutinising the diocese.

The clergy discipline measures cover allegations of misconduct and came into effect in 2006.

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