Retired priest charged with sexual offences against boys

An Eastbourne man has today (Thursday, August 16) been charged with sexual offences against boys, including 13 alleged assaults in Chichester.

The charges allege that Robert Coles, 71, of Upperton Road, Eastbourne committed 13 assaults on a boy, then aged 15 and 16 at a location in Chichester between 1982 and 1984. They comprise three offences of buggery, one of attempted buggery, and nine of indecent assault.

They also include eight offences of indecent assault on another boy then aged between ten and 13 at locations in Broadbridge Heath in West Sussex, Devon, Cornwall and the Isle of White between 1978 and 1981; and;

eight offences of indecent assault on another boy then aged between ten and 13 at locations in Broadbridge Heath in West Sussex, Somerset and Devon between 1978 and 1982.

The retired Church of England priest had been arrested on March 6, had been on conditional police bail since then, and was charged following further police interviews after he answered his bail today.

He was released on conditional police bail today and is due to appear at an initial hearing at Chichester Magistrates Court at 9.15am on Wednesday, September 5.

The charges, authorised by the South East Complex Case Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service, follow a nine month inquiry by Sussex Police detectives into these allegations.

None of the charges relate to any allegations of recent or current offending and police emphasise that there is nothing to suggest that any children are currently at risk.

A special helpline exists for anyone who feels they need support or advice whenever learning of such cases. The helpline is manned by staff at the NSPCC and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Calls are handled sensitively and confidentially. Where appropriate, callers are referred to specially trained police officers and, if required, a range of local counselling services, who can offer expert support to those who come forward. The helpline number is 0800 389 5344.