LONDON (Reuters) - A former Church of England bishop was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sexually assaulting boys as young as 12, police said, the latest public figure to be accused after weeks of child abuse claims that have engulfed the BBC and celebrities.
Separate police investigations into the late television presenter Jimmy Savile have fuelled a national abuse scandal that has dominated public debate and provoked a bout of national soul searching.
Police said Peter Ball, 80, was held in western England on suspicion of sex offences against eight boys and young men, aged from 12 to their early 20s, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was a bishop in Lewes, southern England, and Gloucester, in the southwest.
A woman who answered the telephone at his house in Somerset, southwest England, declined to comment on the arrest.
Ball was arrested at his home after the Church of England passed information from internal reviews to detectives investigating historic sexual offences.
A second man, a retired Anglican priest aged 67, was detained in Sussex, southern England, on suspicion of separate offences against two teenage boys in 1981 and 1983, police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Carwyn Hughes, of Sussex Police, said it was a “very complex inquiry”.
“Allegations of historic offences are treated just as seriously as any more recent offences,” he said.
The church has tightened measures to prevent child abuse after criticism that for years it was slow to respond to allegations and even covered up offences or moved suspected paedophiles to protect its reputation.
“The Church of England takes any allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to being a safe place for all,” said the Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, chairman of a church group set up to protect children.
Reporting by Peter Griffiths