Investigation Into Abuse Claims

An investigation is to be carried out into allegations that two priests were allowed to continue working despite being accused of serious child abuse offences, the Church of England has confirmed.

Collin Pritchard was the vicar of St Barnabas, in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, until 2007, despite having been first reported to police for sex offences 10 years earlier.

He was only suspended when a new safeguarding officer at the diocese decided he was a risk to children.

He was charged with sexually abusing the two young boys the same year and was then jailed for five years in July 2008 when he pleaded guilty to four counts of indecent assault and three counts of committing an act of gross indecency on the two children.

Pritchard was in charge of a church in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, in the early 1980s when he committed the offences, Northampton Crown Court was told.

Jurors heard one of the boys was also abused by Roy Cotton, who worked as a parish priest in Brede near Rye, East Sussex, but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge him before he died in September 2006.

Cotton had been convicted of a sexual offence against a boy in 1954.

The Archdeacon of Lewes and Hastings, the Ven Philip Jones confirmed the Church had launched an investigation.

He said in a statement last night: ``The Diocese of Chichester gives the protection of children the highest priority and takes seriously all concerns raised.

``A review is being undertaken into safeguarding practice in the diocese and in regard to questions raised by this report.

``We do not wish to pre-empt the outcome of that review and are unable to comment until it is completed.''

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