Bishop of Chichester apologises to sex abuse victims

The Bishop of Chichester has issued an apology to two brothers for abuse suffered at the hands of two clergymen.

In the letter, the Sussex bishop apologised for "the decisions taken in the past and for mistakes, failures and lack of knowledge on the part of those who held positions of responsibility".

Roy Cotton worked as a priest in Brede, near Rye, in the 1990s - despite being convicted of a sexual offence in 1954.

Collin Pritchard served as the vicar of St Barnabas, Bexhill, until 2007.

'Errors of judgement'

In 2008 Pritchard pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys in the 1970s and 1980s and was jailed for five years.

The offences took place while he was parish priest at St Andrew's Church in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.

The court heard that Cotton had been involved in the offences but died in 2006, two weeks before Pritchard was arrested.

The bishop's letter continued: "I acknowledge that, in the light of his conviction in 1954, Roy Cotton should not have been ordained priest in 1967.

Image caption Collin Pritchard was sentenced to five years in prison for abusing two boys

"Errors of judgement were made about him and his fitness for ministry, and I accept that, had the diocese taken opportunities to investigate his past, the police might have decided to pursue a prosecution of Cotton prior to his death in 2006."

Pritchard and Cotton first came to the attention of Sussex Police in 1997 after two people came forward to make allegations against them.

The victims said they were sexually abused by the pair during foreign holidays and camping trips.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided there was not enough evidence against them but kept its files open.

The Diocese of Chichester confirmed the pair were given permission to officiate by different bishops despite their arrests and Cotton's previous conviction, which lay on his Church career file.

Cotton continued to serve as a parish priest until 1999 and Pritchard worked at St Barnabas between 2001 and 2007, both apparently without supervision.

Pritchard was suspended in September 2007 when a new safeguarding officer at the diocese realised he was a risk to children.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites