Bishop of Chester hands over safeguarding duties after jailing of retired priest

(Photo: Diocese of Chester)Bishop Peter Forster said he should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester in light of a review into his handling of an abuse case

The Bishop of Chester Peter Forster has passed his safeguarding duties over to another bishop after coming under criticism for his handling of an abuse case involving a retired priest who was jailed this month. 

Gordon Dickenson, 89, was sentenced to 27 months in prison by Liverpool Crown Court after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a child. The abuse occurred in 1974 while Mr Dickenson was vicar of Christ Church, Latchford. 

Bishop Forster has faced criticism over his handling of the case after the diocese failed to act on a letter it received from Mr Dickenson in 2009 in which he admitted he had been accused of abuse. 

After Mr Dickenson's sentencing, the Diocese of Chester offered an "unreserved apology to the survivor who has shown bravery and courage". 

"The diocese wishes to apologise for not acting on this information in 2009 and acknowledges that, had it done so, the police may have brought a prosecution against Gordon Dickenson sooner," it said. 

"An independent review will be conducted into the handling of the case to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned."

In light of the case, Bishop Forster has now announced that he is handing over all safeguarding duties to the Bishop of Birkenhead Keith Sinclair "with immediate effect". 

In a statement, Bishop Forster said: "I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

"An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

"The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the diocese." 

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