Archbishop of Canterbury speaks out after sentence

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The Archbishop of Canterbury and the former Bishop of Lewes have commented on the sentencing of paedophile priest Robert Coles (pictured).

Retired priest Robert Coles was jailed on Thursday for sexually abusing three boys aged from 10 to 16.

The 71-year-old of Upperton Road, Eastbourne, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of abusing boys in West Sussex, Devon, Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.

Brighton Crown Court was told the Crown Prosecution Service had decided not to proceed with seven other charges relating to the same three boys and the judge ordered them to lie on the court file.

Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “I have read details of this case sent to me by the Diocese of Chichester and the Commissaries who were appointed by Bishop Rowan.

“My first concern is always for those whose lives have been affected in any way by cases of abuse within the Church of England and I am appalled by the details of today’s case.

“The systems designed to protect the survivors clearly failed, their vulnerability was taken advantage of, and their lives have been deeply and in some cases permanently affected, as have the lives of those who love them.

“I believe that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, and that any failings in this area must be immediately reported to the police.

“There are no excuses for shortcomings.

A former Bishop of Lewes said to have failed to tell police about a paedophile priest has said there was no cover-up.

It was said in court Coles told senior clergy, including former Bishop of Lewes the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, he had abused one of the children but the information was not given to police.

Bishop Benn, who retired at the end of October last year, said there was no ineptitude or cover-up on his part in a statement on Friday he said he was ‘under no illusions’ about the seriousness of the situation involving Coles.

Bishop Benn said in his statement, the Archbishop of York concluded in October last year both complaints should be dismissed on the ground there was insufficient substance to proceed.

He said an appeal by the original complainants was dismissed last month.