A retired bishop of the Church of England has been arrested by police investigating allegations of child sexual abuse. He was arrested at his home this morning on suspicion of eight separate offences.
As the Guardian points out, the Right Reverend Peter Ball is thought to be the most senior member of the Church of England to have been arrested in connection with a child sexual abuse inquiry. He was arrested on suspicion of offences against eight boys and young men, ranging in age from twelve to their early twenties. The offences are alleged to have been committed during the 1980s and 1990s.
Bishop Ball was the former bishop of Gloucester. He resigned in 1993, as This Is The West Country notes, after receiving a police caution for committing an act of gross indecency against a teenager.
As the Guardian notes, on his resignation, the former bishop moved to Manor Lodge, a wisteria-clad property owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, the private estate of Prince Charles.
At the time, Ball said:
He (Prince Charles) has been wonderfully kind and allowed me to have a duchy house. The prince is a loyal friend. I have immense admiration for him, he has been through horrific times and is a great person.
Sussex Police press release states: Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police, who is in charge of the investigation, said:
We 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 Independent points out that the arrest follows a six month investigation by Sussex Police. The investigation arose from two reports from a Church of England safeguarding children consultant. The handling of sexual abuse allegations in the diocese was subject to an inquiry commissioned by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
BBC News conducted an interview with Neil Todd, a victim of the bishop who waived his right to anonymity, said:
It is an investigation which to be honest is well overdue.
It stayed with me throughout my life's journey and even this far down the track it doesn't feel like there's any real closure.
The abuse was varied. The worst of it was mental abuse.
When it came to the abuse, the abuse was sexual, mental and physical. He was just not a very nice human being
The Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham and chair of the Churches National Safeguarding Committee, said:
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.
Ann Lawrence, from the sexual abuse survivors' group Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors, said it was "a major first step" for the Church of England.