Archbishop ‘appalled’ at former priest’s sex offences

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out as former priest was jailed for child sex offences.

A retired priest, Robert Coles, was sentenced to eight years in prison on Thursday (February 14), for 11 child sex offences.

Coles, 71, of Upperton Road, Eastbourne, appeared at Brighton Crown Court and was sentenced for sexual offences against young boys.

At a hearing on December 14, at Chichester Crown Court, Coles pleaded guilty to 11 offences against a boy in Chichester between 1982 and 1984 and offences against two other boys, aged ten at the time.

A further seven offences were ordered to lie on file.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: “I have read details of this case sent to me by the Diocese of Chichester and the commissaries who were appointed by Bishop Rowan. My first concern is always for those whose lives have been affected in any way by cases of abuse within the Church of England and I am appalled by the details of today’s case.

“The systems designed to protect the survivors clearly failed, their vulnerability was taken advantage of, and their lives have been deeply and in some cases permanently affected, as have the lives of those who love them.

“I believe that the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults should be the highest priority of all parts of the Church, and that any failings in this area must be immediately reported to the police. There are no excuses for shortcomings.

“I repeat what I have said before and, on behalf of the Church, apologise with deep grief for the betrayals and failings that occurred.

“The victims and survivors, their friends and relatives, are in my prayers and, as I have said, my priority as Archbishop of Canterbury is to prevent future failings of this kind happening again. We must ensure that the Church is and remains a safe place for all children, young people and vulnerable adults and I know this is a view shared by the Bishop of Chichester. The diocese, led by Bishop Martin, continues to work closely with the police and all statutory authorities in relation to safeguarding matters.

“The commissaries appointed by Bishop Rowan have been continuing their work in the Diocese of Chichester, and I must commend their painstaking and careful attention to all the material safeguarding issues, and their very real concern for the survivors.”

Full details of the case can be found here, and in next week’s Observer (February 21).