A retired priest has appeared in court charged with sexually abusing boys.

Robert Coles, of Upperton Road in Eastbourne, appeared at Chichester Crown Court yesterday charged with sexual offences against three teenage boys in Chichester and other locations in Sussex between the 1970s and early 1990s.

The 71-year-old pleaded not guilty to three offences of buggery on one of the boys then aged between 15 and 16 at a location in Chichester between 1982 and 1984.

He will stand trial on June 10 and continues to be on court bail.The Crown Prosecution Service will also decide in January whether Coles will face further offences of indecent assault which he has also pleaded not guilty to.

Coles was arrested in March and was charged in August this year following a year-long enquiry by Sussex Police detectives.

Sussex Police said that none of the charges relate to any allegations of recent or current offending and that there is nothing to suggest that any children are currently at risk.

A Diocese of Chichester spokeswoman said: “Our prayers are for anyone affected by today’s hearing.

“We are unable to comment further at this stage whilst we allow the judicial system to take its course.”

She added the church’s cooperation with Sussex police in this investigation is in line with their ongoing commitment to do all that is necessary to bring any allegations of abuse to the attention of the public authorities, and to ensure that the Diocese of Chichester is a safe place for all.

A special NSPCC helpline has been set up for anyone who feels they need support or advice on 0800 389 5344.

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