Retired bishop Peter Ball held in child sex abuse investigation

The Independent, UK/November 13, 2012

A retired Church of England bishop was among two clergymen arrested by police investigating historic allegations of child sex abuse within the scandal-hit Diocese of Chichester.

Peter Ball, 80, was held at his home near Langport, Somerset, on suspicion of eight sex offences against eight boys and young men aged from 12 to their early 20s in East Sussex and elsewhere in the late 1980s and 1990s, sources said.

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.

The arrests follow a review and subsequent inquiry over the past six months by a team of Sussex Police detectives.

The investigation followed receipt by police in May this year from Lambeth Palace of two reports from a CofE safeguarding consultant.

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

Officers described it as a "very complex inquiry" during which many people, who are all now adults, have had to be traced along with witnesses and records.

Police said there were no allegations of recent or current offending, and there was no suggestion that any young people are at risk.

Officers also said the claims are being treated separately and do not involve the two men allegedly acting together.

Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes, of Sussex Police, who is leading the investigation, 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."

The arrest of Mr Ball, a former Bishop of Lewes who resigned as Bishop of Gloucester in 1993, and a second retired clergyman comes after the CofE issued an "unreserved apology" earlier this year for historic cases of child abuse by some of its clergy.

The Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee, said: "We can confirm that police today arrested a retired bishop and a 67-year-old retired priest in relation to allegations of sexual abuse.

"The Church has been working closely with Sussex Police throughout this investigation."

He added: "The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all. To this end we have robust procedures and policies in place. But we can never be complacent.

"We would like to urge any victims or those with information to feel free to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence.

"We have also put support systems in place for all those involved with today's arrests."

The Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, said the arrests followed an investigation in which the Diocese of Chichester had been working closely with Sussex Police.

He said: "The Diocese of Chichester can confirm that two men, a retired bishop aged 80 and a retired priest aged 67, were arrested this morning, Tuesday November 13, by detectives from Sussex Police.

"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.

"These arrests occur as part of an investigation in which the Diocese of Chichester has been working closely with Sussex Police.

"We have also been working closely with Elizabeth Hall, the National Safeguarding adviser for the Church of England, and Kate Wood, the safeguarding consultant appointed by the Church of England to compile a file of evidence that was handed to Sussex Police in May.

"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."

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