Priest freed on bail by detectives investigating Church sex abuse claims

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A retired Church of England priest arrested by detectives investigating historic allegations of sex abuse against children and young men has been freed on bail.

The man, named by sources as the Rev Robert Coles, 70, was held at his home in Eastbourne, East Sussex, yesterday on suspicion of sex assaults on three young men in West Sussex in the late 1970s and mid 1980s.

Sussex Police said he has been freed on bail until April 17. A second retired priest, Canon Gordon Rideout, 73, remains in police custody for questioning.

He too was detained yesterday at his home near Eastbourne on suspicion of alleged sex assaults on nine young people in Crawley, Barkingside, north-east London and Middle Wallop, Hampshire, between 1965 and 1972.

The arrests have thrown further scrutiny on the Diocese of Chichester whose child protection policies are the subject of an official inquiry set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury last year.

Dr Rowan Williams appointed Bishop John Gladwin and Chancellor Rupert Bursell QC to conduct the inquiry.

Last week the Church of England issued an unreserved apology for historic cases of child abuse after it emerged that convicted paedophile Roy Cotton went on to be ordained as a priest in the diocese.

A helpline has been set up on 0800 389 5344.