TWO retired priests have been arrested, after an investigation
into allegations of child abuse in the diocese of Chichester.
Canon Gordon Rideout was arrested on Tuesday at his home near
Eastbourne, on suspicion of sexual assaults committed against nine
young people in Crawley, West Sussex; Barkingside, in north-east
London; and Middle Wallop, Hampshire, between 1965 and 1972.
On the same morning, Robert Coles, a former parish priest, was
arrested at his home in Eastbourne on suspicion of sexual assaults
against three young men in West Sussex during the late 1970s and
Sussex Police have been investigating allegations of abuse for
six months, after they received a confidential review of
allegations against Church of England priests, conducted by
Baroness Butler-Sloss (News, 27
May, 22 July 2011).
Although several of the allegations had previously been reported to
the police, there was insufficient evidence to justify prosecution
at those times, Sussex Police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes said that the cases
against the two men were being treated as separate inquiries. The
offences were allegedly committed at different times and in
different places from each other. He said there were no allegations
of recent or current offending and that there is nothing to suggest
that any children are currently at risk.
In a pastoral letter written after the arrests, the Acting
Bishop of Chichester, the Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, said: "I am writing
to assure you that every possible step will be taken to root out
anyone who is guilty of sexual offences with children or vulnerable
adults. . .
"We owe this to those who have suffered abuse, and most
especially to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of people
exercising a ministry in the name of the Church, to listen to
their experiences, being resolved not only to prevent such crimes
being repeated, but to ensure that no one colludes with
perpetrators of abuse by failing to report what they ought to
report to the police."
On Thursday of last week, the diocese published a report by
Roger Meekings, which details how Roy Cotton, a convicted
paedophile, held several posts as a cleric, despite complaints
made to the diocese. He died in 2006, before formal charges against
him could be made.
The Meekings report formed part of the independent Past Cases
Review, commissioned by the last Bishop of Chichester and completed
last year. After its publication on Thursday, the Bishop of
Southwell & Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who jointly
chairs the Church of England's safeguarding liaison group, issued
an "unreserved apology" on behalf of the Church.
In a column for the Nottingham Post, Bishop Butler said
that Mr Cotton should never have been ordained. "I have felt
physically sick at the thought that anyone, but particularly
priests, should do such things to vulnerable, innocent children,"
The diocese of Chichester has also published Lady
Butler-Sloss's comments on the Meekings findings. Certain
assumptions and conclusions, she said, had made his review "in part
at least, unreliable", and some comments and criticisms were based
In an addendum to her review, published on 28 January, she
sought to correct inaccuracies about Mr Cotton's activities after
his retirement, based on information given to her by the Bishop
of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, and the Bishop of Lewes,
the Rt Revd Wallace Benn. "I very much regret that I accepted the
information I was given," she said.
An inquiry into the operation of the diocesan child-protection
policies in the diocese of Chichester, set up by the Archbishop of
Canterbury in December, is due to report shortly.
Organist on trial. The trial is taking place of
the organist of St Andrew's, Wiveliscombe, in Somerset, Nigel
Parkin. Mr Parkin has pleaded not guilty to sexually abusing two
A special helpline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a
week, for anyone who feels the need for support or advice in
connection with the Chichester cases or similar cases. The helpline
number is 0800 389 5344.