Bishop Forster, the Bishop of Chester will no longer be responsible for safeguarding in his Diocese. This is believed to be the first case of its kind.
Bishop Forster, who is the longest serving Bishop within the Church of England was aware that Reverend Gordon Dickenson had been accused of sex offences when this was disclosed in a letter to the Diocese in 2009. During a review of past abuse cases, Bishop Dickenson wrote a letter he which he admitted that he had been accused of abuse in the 1970’s and he promised that he would never do it again. Bishop Forster did not report these allegations to the Police or commence an internal church inquiry because of “promises made by Dickenson.” Bishop Dickenson was allowed to continue to act as a retired Priest, conducting Church services for a further 5 years.
Recently, Bishop Dickenson has been convicted of 8 counts of sexual assaults of a boy dating back to the 1970’s. The abuse took place in a church hall and in his vicarage. Dickenson, who is now 89 years old has been jailed for 27 months. The Court heard that the boy was 12 and 13 years old at the time of the assaults. He stated that he “had been driven to alcoholism and left feeling like he had buried away a dirty secret.”
There have been calls for Bishop Forster to resign because of his involvement in the scandal, however, he has announced that he will no longer be responsible for safeguarding in his Diocese. He has made a statement in which he has said that he:
“has formally delegated a safeguarding responsibility to the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair.” Bishop Forster had further confirmed that he had made this decision “due to his 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.”
The Church of England has also instigated a formal review of Bishop Forster conduct and the matter has been reported to the Church’s disciplinary body.
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