Priests are suspended after safety oversight

A NUMBER of priests across Eastbourne have been suspended while child safety checks are carried out.

More than 100 Anglican priests in Sussex have been temporarily stopped from working after a review of part-time and retired clergy by the Diocese of Chichester.

Church officials said some clergy with Permission to Officiate had not had their Criminal Records Bureau check renewed within the past five years.

They said “administrative oversights” were to blame and the situation would be remedied as soon as possible.

Most priests should be allowed to return once they have the correct documents and an acceptable Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

The “oversight” also means those affected cannot work with children or vulnerable adults.

Last year, the diocese was criticised for seriously inadequate record-keeping that allowed paedophile priests to remain in position.

The Reverend Roy Cotton, who worked for the diocese in the 1970s and 1980s, was ordained in 1966 despite having a conviction for indecently assaulting a choirboy in the 1950s.

He worked at St Andrew’s Church in Eastbourne and abused young boys.

The Diocese of Chichester, which runs Church of England churches, said it undertook the review to maintain the highest safeguarding standards.

Initially 106 were suspended from continuing their duties, with 80 currently under restrictions. It is understood the priests who have been stopped from working are mainly retired clergy.

In a statement, the diocese said, “While all clergy have checks, we have established that some clergy with Permission to Officiate have not had their CRB check renewed within the last five years as per Church of England policy.

“These have been mostly due to administrative oversights and we are now doing all that we can to remedy the situation as soon as possible.

“We regret that some clergy will be temporarily restricted from exercising their ministry during the period of review or until their CRB status is clarified.

“We fully acknowledge that as we continue this review other discrepancies may come to light.

“There is no suggestion whatsoever that those temporarily restricted have at any time performed in accordance with anything other than the highest standards required of them as ministers.”