A retired Church of England bishop, one of two clergymen arrested by police investigating historic allegations of child sex abuse, was released last night on medical grounds.
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.
Sussex Police said last night that he was released at his home on medical advice and it was their intention to interview him at a later date.
He has in the past described Prince Charles as a ‘loyal friend’ and lived for a decade in the Somerset village of Aller in a Duchy of Cornwall property after he resigned from the church in mysterious circumstances in 1993.
A second man, an unnamed 67-year-old retired priest, was also detained at his home yesterday 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. He was bailed last night.
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: “The Church has been working closely with Sussex Police.”