The former Archbishop of Canterbury may face a criminal investigation over allegations of a sexual abuse cover-up, it has been reported.

Detectives from Scotland Yard are said to be discussing with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over whether to lay charges against George Carey, who quit as honorary bishop.

He stepped down following a report that while he was at the helm, the Church of England colluded with convicted sex abuser Bishop Peter Ball.

That report, by Dame Moira Gibb criticised Carey for not giving to police during its investigation in 1992, six letters that alleged wrongdoing by Ball, who was later jailed for sex offences against young men.

The report also found that Carey helped reinstate Ball in the church.

The Telegraph reported that CPS lawyers and police linked with Operation Hydrant, which is examining cases arising out of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), are looking into whether Carey should face a criminal probe.

The Hydrant spokeswoman said: "The matters under consideration are complex, and advice is currently being sought from CPS to understand whether anything contained within the Report suggests criminal offences have been committed.

"This does not equate to a criminal investigation being underway."

Peter Ball
Retired bishop Peter Ball was jailed for 32 months after being found guilty of historic sex offences BBC /

Solicitor David Greenwood, who has represented some of Ball's victims, criticised the length of time the CPS was taking over the report.

"Those who've been affected by Peter Ball want a clear investigation - especially as to whether it's true that Peter Ball was protected by friends in high places."

A spokeswoman for the Church of England did not comment but said it would co-operate with police investigations.

The IICSA will hear evidence starting Monday (5 March) in an examination of the Anglican Church. Archbishop Justin Welby and former Archbishop Rowan Williams will testify.