The Church of England has today issued the following statement concerning the police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey.
Statement from Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster
17 October 2017
Statement from Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and Bishop of Chester. Dr Peter Forster
“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 statement issued by the Cheshire Police referred to above contains a link to the Summary Report Operation Coverage on the investigation, which was initiated in July 2016 by the Cheshire Constabulary. This commenced following a report from the Chester Diocese Safeguarding Officer and related to serious sexual abuse disclosures that had been made by two males against the late Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey. Extracts from the conclusions to the report are reproduced below:
“5.1.1 At the conclusion of the police investigation into a deceased person the option for the police to present a case file to the CPS for consideration of charge is not available. However, the advice and guidance from Operation Hydrant – Advice for Investigating Deceased Persons ‘Publication of Findings’ (2017) does provide the police with the opportunity to conclude, if the deceased person was alive, they would have been spoken to in order to provide a response.
5.1.2 The information obtained during the investigation into the alleged sexual abuse by Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey, has uncovered 13 people making allegations. The accounts provided by each has been assessed and considered in terms of whether the police had sufficient information to consider if Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey would be asked to provide an account.
5.1.3 Based upon the accounts provided, Operation Coverage has determined 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. This is based upon the details they have provided within their accounts of the abuse they have alleged. The 3 other witnesses have provided only limited information to the police regarding the abuse they have alleged and, as such, it has been determined that we would have had insufficient information to speak to Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey in regard to these specific cases.
5.1.4 The following outlines the breakdown of the allegations that Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey would have been asked to respond to.
5.1.5 The fact that the police have made the decision that should Right Reverend Hubert Victor Whitsey have been alive today he would be spoken to is not an indication of guilt, as within any criminal investigation individuals are provided opportunities to give their account, whether this leads to further action or not.
Although undated, the Report states [5.1.7]: “[t]he police investigation was completed over a 13 month period”.