A SENIOR figure in the Church of England has been asked to step down from his role in the Diocese of Oxford over 'collusion' in covering up historic sexual abuse.

Lord Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of abuses carried out by former bishop of Lewes and Gloucester Peter Ball between the 1970s and 1990s.

Ball, now 85, was jailed for 32 months in October 2015 after admitting sex offences against 18 teenagers and young men.

Lord Carey has now been asked to step down by current Archbishop Justin Welby from his role as an honorary assistant bishop at the Diocese of Oxford.

A newly-published independent review found that Lord Carey received seven letters from families and individuals following the arrest and cautioning of Ball in 1992 for gross indecency, but failed to pass six of them to the police.

He chose not to put Ball on the Church of England's 'Lambeth List', which names clergymen about whom questions of suitability for ministry have been raised, and also gave Ball funds to support him.

In a September 1993 letter to Ball's twin brother Michael, Lord Carey Lord described the paedophile bishop as 'basically innocent' and said he had a 'very high' regard for him.

This afternoon the Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, the Bishop of Oxford, said: "First of all, I want to give my heartfelt apologies to the survivors of Peter Ball’s abuse. The Church of England has let them down by failing to act on the reports of his actions and there are no excuses for this.

"We must now act on the recommendations put forward by Dame Moira Gibb and all bishops must demonstrate our accountability for making sure everyone in our Church is kept safe. 

"With reference to the criticism of former Archbishop George Carey in the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury has written to Lord Carey and asked him to carefully consider his position as honorary Assistant Bishop.

"As I hold responsibility for granting him a licence to enable him to carry out his duties, Archbishop Justin has asked Lord Carey to talk to me and we have agreed to meet in the coming days for that conversation. In the meantime he has voluntarily agreed to step back from public ministry.”