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The Archbishop of York responds to police report on allegations of abuse against a former bishop

The Archbishop of York responds to police report on allegations of abuse against a former bishop

This story has been updated to link to a victim statement published by Christian Today

The Archbishop of York and the current Bishop of Chester have issued a statement addressing allegations of abuse against a former Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Hubert Victor Whitsey, now deceased.

Cheshire police issued a statement today explaining their process:

Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said: “Cheshire Constabulary has published a report into the findings of an investigation into allegations of non-recent sexual abuse made against a former Bishop of Chester. Operation Coverage focused on allegations made against the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey, which date back to the 1970s and 1980s. They relate to 13 victims (5 male and 8 female).

“The abuse is alleged to have taken place whilst the Bishop was living and working in Chester and one incident is reported to have taken place outside of the county. An investigation was launched by Cheshire Constabulary in July 2016 following a report from the Diocese of Chester Safeguarding Officer. Further disclosures were made as part of the investigation, which spanned a period of 13 months.

“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.

“Following a thorough investigation and taking into account all of the information available, it has been established that, if Bishop Whitsey were alive today, as part of the investigation process he would have been spoken to by police. This would have been in order to outline the details of the allegations made and to provide him with an opportunity to offer an account of events.

“It is important to remember that this is not an indication of guilt – this 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.”

The Most Revd John Sentamu and the Rt Revd Dr Peter Forster responded:

“We can confirm that we have supported the police on an investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The allegations date from 1974 onwards when he was Bishop of Chester and from 1981 while he was retired and living in Blackburn diocese. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

“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. We appreciate that it is very difficult for individuals to come forward and to give their account. 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.

“We have supported the police investigation Operation Coverage, which has been comprehensive, and they have informed us that “should Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey have been alive today, then the Police would have spoken to him in relation to 10 of the witness allegations.

“Anyone affected by today’s news should call the CCPAS helpline on 0303 003 11 11 who can offer help and signpost to church-related support and information or alternatively call the NSPCC 0808 800 5000. Anyone with further information on the case should go direct to the police on 101.

“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 story of one of Bishop Whitsey’s alleged victims appears at Christian Today. He writes, in part:

Child sex abuse is a crime which stays with you for a lifetime. … Since my abuse, not a day has gone by that I have not thought about what happened to me. …

I would like to put on record that I cannot fault the police response or the sensitive, professional, and victim-centred approach they have taken. The position I am in now is that I now know I am believed and am in control of my future. I cannot see my abuser face trial in a court on earth but I hope that by a public acknowledgement of what Whitsey did to us, the church can learn that they need to adopt a new culture of openness. I hope that there will be a public inquiry to understand not only what Whitsey did to his victims but to also learn who knew what he was doing, to what extent his actions were intentionally covered up, and who else was complicit in the crimes that he committed, and for which, I continue to suffer every day of my life.

Photo: Chester Cathedral, via chestercathedral.com

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