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Former Priest Faces New Sex Abuse Allegations

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The Diocese of Chichester has been under scrutiny over its child protection policies
The Diocese of Chichester has been under scrutiny over its child protection policies

A retired Church of England priest at the centre of an abuse inquiry has been arrested over new sexual assault allegations.

Canon Gordon Rideout, 73, was arrested and interviewed on Monday on suspicion of four sexual assaults on young people during the late 1960s and early 1970s in Ifield, West Sussex, and Middle Wallop, Hampshire, according to Sussex Police.

Mr Rideout, From Eastbourne, East Sussex, was due to answer bail on Wednesday following his arrest on 6 March on suspicion of sexual assaults committed against nine young people in Crawley, West Sussex, Barkingside, north east London, and Middle Wallop, Hampshire, between 1965 and 1972.

He has been bailed to return on 20 June, a Sussex Police spokesman said.

Mr Rideout was first arrested in March following a six-month investigation by Sussex Police child protection detectives who re-examined several historic allegations referred to in a confidential report provided by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss last year.

The force and the Diocese of Chichester provided detailed information to the report of some historic allegations of sexual abuse by Church of England priests against young people in Sussex and elsewhere.

Several of those allegations had previously been reported to police but there had been insufficient evidence to justify prosecution at the time, a police spokesman said.

Former parish priest Robert Coles, 70, from Eastbourne, was also arrested in March at his home in Eastbourne on suspicion of sexual assaults against three young men in West Sussex during the late 1970s and mid 1980s.

He answered bail on Tuesday and was also interviewed on suspicion of a further two sex assaults which allegedly took place during the 2000s in East Sussex, a police spokesman said.

He was released on police bail until 19 June pending further inquiries and consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.

The arrests threw further scrutiny on the Diocese of Chichester whose child protection policies are the subject of an official inquiry set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year.

Dr Rowan Williams appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to conduct the inquiry, which was launched "in response to concerns within the diocese", according to Lambeth Palace.

Current child protection arrangements within the diocese will be scrutinised and recommendations for the future will be made.

Earlier this year, the Church of England issued an unreserved apology for historic cases of child abuse by some of its clergy after it emerged that convicted paedophile Roy Cotton went on to be ordained as a priest in the diocese.

The Diocese of Chichester said in a statement in March that it had been co-operating fully with the police and other statutory agencies throughout the investigation.

Acting Bishop of Chichester Mark Sowerby said: "We are absolutely committed to making sure that our churches are safe communities for children and vulnerable adults, and to giving the highest priority to statutory safeguarding practice and Church of England policies on safeguarding."

A special helpline, manned by staff at the NSPCC, has been set up for anyone who feels they need support or advice on 0800 389 5344.