A SEXUAL abuse victim has accused the Church of “systematic behaviour” in failing to act on allegations of assault after the sixth Sussex churchman in two years was exposed as an offender .

The claim comes after it was revealed on Thursday that former Bishop of Chichester George Bell, a man once tipped to be Archbishop of Canterbury, sexually abused a young child for a number of years.

Campaigners are now questioning the Diocese of Chichester's ability to investigate itself, as historic cases continue to emerge despite five separate inquiries.

Additionally an inquiry into the Church’s handling of the Peter Ball case was commissioned on October 5 and the diocese is also co-operating with the national Goddard review into child sexual abuse.

Yesterday there was no clarification from the current Bishop of Chichester, Martin Warner, following his comment that there had been no cover up by the Church.

This despite an 18 year delay between Bell's abuse being reported and the Church passing allegations to the police.

George Bell was so feted nationally and internationally that there is church property, a charity, a house of Bishop Luffa School in Chichester, and even a feast day in his name.

But by Thursday his reputation lay in the same increasingly crowded gutter as five other vicars, bishops and church employees from the diocese - which covers almost all of Sussex - who have been convicted since 2013.

The list includes Father Keith Wilkie Denford, a Burgess Hill vicar convicted alongside church organist Michael Mytton of abusing 13 year old boys in the late 1980s.

Robert Coles, a priest from Eastbourne, who pleaded guilty two years ago to 11 charges of abusing boys between the ages of 10 and 16.

And this month former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball was jailed for taking sexual advantage of young men who came to him for guidance.

Additionally, Bexhill vicar Colin Pritchard was jailed in 2008 for abusing boys in the 70s and 80s, in a case which also brought to light abuse perpetrated by his deceased colleague Roy Cotton.

Phil Johnson, a victim of Ball’s who waived his right to anonymity, said yesterday: “In nearly all these cases information was reported to the Church and the Church failed to take action. This is a sign of systematic behaviour.”

Since 2012 the diocese has seen the publication of the Meekings Report into past cases, an enquiry by Baroness Butler-Schloss, an Archiepiscopal Visitation Enquiry commissioned by Lambeth Palace, and the publication of the Carmi enquiry into abuse in Chichester. Despite these new cases have continued to come to light.

Keith Porteous Wood, director of the National Secular Society, said the problem was internal enquiries with insufficiently broad terms of reference, and called for the Church to be totally transparent in its dealings with the national Goddard enquiry.

For the diocese, Bishop Mark Sowerby of Horsham insisted that the Church’s attitude was now one of complete openness, adding: “We have moved a very long way from the inadequacy of the response [to the Bell allegations] in 1995.”

The remnants of Bell’s tarnished reputation is now being removed by those now troubled by the association.

A spokeswoman for Chichester Cathedral said that George Bell House would be renamed. Prestigious Church of England secondary school Bishop Luffa faced calls from campaigners to rename one of its houses, which is named “Bell house” after the bishop.

And the removal of an annual Church of England feast day held in Bell’s name is expected when church officials next meet, with a spokesman saying that until that can take place, he would “not advise anyone to mark the day in any liturgical way.”

Turn to page 10 for The Argus leader.