Late Bishop of Chester investigated after 13 allegations of abuse

The late Bishop of Chester, Hubert Victor Whitsey, would have faced police questioning were he still alive after 13 allegations of abuse against children and adults were made, a police report concluded. 

The historic abuse is said to have happened from 1974 while Bishop Whitsey was still in his role in Chester and from 1981 after he retired and was living in the Blackburn diocese. The investigation 30 years after his death found he would have faced questioning over 10 of the allegations made.

The former Bishop of Chester, Hubert Victor Whitsey, would have faced police questioning over 10 of the 13 allegations of abuse made against him, if he were alive today.Diocese of Chester

One victim who later attempted to commit suicide said the abuse he faced at the hands of Bishop Whitsey led to him to have a complete mental breakdown.

'Because of the sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Victor Whitsey I lost my faith, my chosen life as a vicar, my self-belief, my freedom from worry and my dignity,' an anonymous statement read. 'Child sex abuse is a crime which stays with you for a lifetime. As a child you don't understand why or what is happening, but as you grow older you realise the enormity of the abuse and it hurts you all over again - you blame yourself for allowing it - you hate yourself for being weak.'

Whitsey, who died in 1987 aged 71, had been Bishop of Hertford before his promotion to Chester.

The revelation comes as the Church of England is mirred in a string of abuse scandals after it was found to have collued with the disgraced former bishop of both Gloucester and Lewes, Peter Ball, who was jailed in October 2015 for the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of 18 young men.

The Archbishop of York apologised to those affected by Whitsey's alleged crimes, adding he is 'deeply sorry' and describing sex abuse as a 'heinous crime' in a statement alongside the current Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster.

'We are deeply sorry and apologise to those individuals who have come forward to share their account of abuse by a bishop in the Church of England who was in a position of power and authority,' they said.

'Sexual abuse is a heinous crime – and is an absolute and shameful breach of trust. We acknowledge that for survivors, the effects of sexual abuse are lifelong. We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and continue to hold them all in our prayers.'

They added: 'The Church will consider what lessons can be learnt from this case and whether any action needs to be taken as a result of what these enquiries have shown.'

The police says abuse by the former Bishop of Chester, Hubert Victor Whitsey, is said to have happened while he was in his role at Chester as well as after he retired.Wikipedia

The police investigation, known as Operation Coverage, spanned 13 months and was launched by Cheshire Constabulary in July 2016 after a report by the Diocese of Chester's safeguarding officer.

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said: 'Allegations of this nature are taken extremely seriously. The police have a duty to carry out a proportionate investigation into all allegations of sexual abuse - even if the alleged offences took place many years ago and the person being accused has since died.

He added it was important to remember police questioning 'is not an indication of guilt' and is 'a key part of the investigation process and this happens regularly as part of a case to obtain an account whether this leads to further action or not. It is not the role of the police to judge whether someone is guilty or innocent.'

But Richard Scorer, a specialist abuse lawyer from the firm Slater and Gordon, which represents four of Whitsey's victims, accused the Church of covering up the abuse: 'The abhorrent and disgusting abuse perpetrated by Bishop Whistey destroyed many lives, driving some to attempt suicide. What is equally abhorrent is that the Church of England knew of his abuse, did nothing to stop it and covered it up. It is crucial that there is now an independent review into Whitsey abuse and who failed to act when they learnt of his heinous behaviour.'

It comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury issued a personal apology to another victim of clerical sex abuse following Lambeth Palace's failure to respond to 17 letter asking for help. 

Anyone who is a victim of sexual abuse or knows of someone who is can contact Cheshire Police on 101. Information can also be left anonymously, via Crimestoppers, on 0800 555 111. You can also seek support from the NSPCC via their national helpline on 0808 800 5000.