Investigation into sex abuse by bishop

Hubert Victor Whitsey, the former Bishop of Chester
Hubert Victor Whitsey, the former Bishop of Chester

Police have launched an investigation into sexual abuse by a former bishop who retired to Lancashire

Cheshire Police have published details of an investigation into historic child sex abuse by Hubert Victor Whitsey, the former Bishop of Chester.

The Church of England Bishop, who has since died, retired in 1981 and came to live in Lancashire, where he grew up and had worked as a priest before becoming bishop.

Cheshire Police said it has looked into allegation of abuse of boys and girls dating from the 1970s and 80s, which covered both the time he was bishop and his retirement in the Diocese of Blackburn.

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 (five male and eight 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."

Whitsey grew up in Lancashire and before becoming Bishop, he worked as a parish priest in Chorley, South Ribble and Bolton.

Diocesan Bishop of The Church of England in Lancashire, Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, said: “The Church of England has been supporting 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 while he was retired and living in Blackburn Diocese.

“I would like to echo the heartfelt apology offered today, by the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Chester, to the survivors who have been brave enough to come forward and tell their story of abuse by a senior figure in the Church, who was in a position of power and authority.

“We are offering pastoral support to all those who have come forward and are continuing to hold them all in our prayers.

“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.”