Bishop accused of covering up priests CRB check

Wallace Benn
Wallace Benn

A BISHOP from Eastbourne is believed to have tried to prevent a priest’s Criminal Record Bureau check – which detailed allegations of child sex abuse – being dealt with properly.

The allegation forms part of an official complaint against the Bishop of Lewes, Rt Rev Wallace Benn, according to sources outside the Diocese of Chichester.

A CRB check against a retired priest who has since been charged with 38 sex offences against children and young adults, was not passed on for more than three weeks, it is claimed.

The official complaint by the Diocese’s independent Safeguarding Advisory Group is being investigated by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office.

It is understood the CRB check carried out on Canon Gordon Rideout in 2010 showed allegations of child sex abuse made against him in the 1970s.

It also gave details of his arrest by Sussex Police on 2002 in connection with the allegations.

The check was sent to Bishop Benn’s office in August 2010 but it is understood the safeguarding adviser to the diocese only found out about it in September – from a third party.

Canon Rideout was immediately suspended from serving as a priest.

Bishop Benn, who lives in Eastbourne, has declined to comment and his solicitors say there are inaccuracies in media reports but have advised him not to talk to the press.

But child protection expert Chris Mills said, “I cannot see any reason why a CRB check should be delayed – I can only see reasons why it should be acted upon immediately.”

Bishop Benn is fighting the formal complaint against him with the help of his legal team.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s office at Lambeth Palace said it was unable to comment because the disciplinary process was ongoing.

Canon Gordon Rideout has been charged with 38 sex offences against children and young adults and Bishop Benn was among senior clergy criticised last year in a report by Baroness Butler-Sloss, commissioned by the Diocese of Chichester, about the way historical claims of abuse by paedophile priest Roy Cotton, who worked at St Andrew’s Church, were dealt with.