EXTRADITION proceedings have been launched in Australia against a former East Lancashire police sergeant accused of more than 20 allegations of sexual assault against children.

It is understood the 76-year-old, who has not been named, was arrested at his home in Peregian Springs, Queensland.

Peregian Springs is a purpose-built resort community on the state’s Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.

He is now being held by Australian officers on behalf of Blackburn police.

Detectives in the public protection unit are running the investigation and requested the pensioner's arrest.

They are now seeking his extradition to the UK where he will be questioned about the allegations, which date back five decades.

His alleged victims were abused over several years and they have been made aware he has been arrested, police said.

The allegations date from between 1960 and 1974 and relate primarily to when he lived in the Accrington area, although he also spent time in Oldham and Maghull near Liverpool.

Police said he moved to Australia in 2002 after being made aware allegations had been made against him.

Lancashire Constabulary has its own specialised extradition unit based at its headquarters in Hutton, but this will be the first extradition Eastern division's public protection unit has sanctioned in several years.

DI Claire Holbrook, head of the public protection unit, said: “Despite the distance the public protection unit is determined to investigate all offences of abuse against children.

“Once this man is back, highly trained officers will interview him about this large number of historic allegations.

“Distance should never be a block to justice.

“n the two years I have been in charge of this unit this is the first man to have extradition proceedings launched against him.

“He emigrated to Australia in 2002 after being made aware of the allegations.

“The allegations span a long period of his history and I can confirm that he held a position of authority and responsibility in East Lancashire prior to his retirement."

As part of the extradition proceedings the suspect will appear before a judge in Australia.

At that hearing he can either agree to be returned to the UK, or contest the extradition and wait for a further hearing before the judge.

If he agrees to the extradition he could be returned within two months.