Witnesses come forward over allegations of child sex abuse in East Sussex

Sussex Police have revealed that they have received a “substantial” amount of new information over historic allegations of sex offences against children and young men in East Sussex following the arrests this week of two members of the clergy.

The former Bishop of Lewes, the Right Reverend Peter Ball, and retired church of England priest, Vickery House, were both arrested this week by police. Both have been released but are expected to be questioned again by police shortly.

Eighty-year-old Peter Ball was arrested on Tuesday at his home near Langport in Somerset, on suspicion of eight sexual offences in East Sussex and in one case elsewhere, almost all during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was released at his home that afternoon on medical advice and police intend to interview him at a later date. The offences were allegedly committed against eight boys and young men, all of whom were at time in their late teens or early twenties, except one who was 12 when the alleged offending occurred in the late 1970s.

Vickery House, 67, was arrested on the same morning at his home address near Haywards Heath on suspicion of two separate sexual offences against two boys aged 17 and 18 at the time, in East Sussex between 1981 and 1983. He was interviewed in Sussex and released on police bail this afternoon until Thursday, November 29 while enquiries continue.

However over the two days since the two arrests took place, a further 10 people have come forward alleging that sexual offences were committed against them, seven by the 80-year-old and three by the 67-year-old, mainly in Sussex, during a period ranging from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The men were all also in their late teens or early twenties at the time, with the exception of one who was 12.

According to police, a number of other people have also come forward over the past 48 hours, offering other potentially useful information although not alleging offences against them.

Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes of Sussex Police, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are very interested to see that so many people have contacted us since Tuesday, and every report is being followed up.

“Anyone else who wishes to contact us is encouraged to do so by calling Sussex Police via 101 and quoting Operation Dunhill. Calls are treated with great sensitivity. The force will always take seriously any allegations of historic sexual offending, and every possible step is taken to investigate whenever appropriate. Allegations of historic offences are treated just as seriously as any more recent offences.”

The arrests resulted from a review and subsequent investigation over the past six months by a team of Sussex Police detectives.

The investigation follows receipt by Sussex Police in May this year from Lambeth Palace of two reports from a Church of England safeguarding consultant, which contain reviews of Church files relating to matters relating to the safeguarding of young people in the Chichester Diocese during the 1980s and early 1990s. Police also received the files themselves.

The investigation, which relates to alleged offences not previously reported to Sussex Police, has taken six months so far and is continuing.

Sussex Police have described this as a very complex enquiry when many people, all now adults, have had to be traced, together with other witnesses and records from a wide variety of sources. There has also been consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.

There are still no allegations of recent or current offending and police have emphasised that there continues to be nothing to suggest that any young people are currently at risk.

A special helpline is also available for anyone who feels they need support or advice whenever learning of this or any similar cases. The helpline is manned by staff at the NSPCC and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Calls will be handled sensitively and confidentially. Where appropriate, callers will be referred to specially trained police officers and, if required, a range of local counselling services, who are ready to offer expert support to those who come forward. The helpline number is 0800 389 5344.