THE Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, has offered to step back temporarily from all groups of which he is a patron or board member, while he is being investigated by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST), the diocese of Carlisle confirmed this week.
Bishop Newcome admitted in October that he made an “error of judgement” when he wrote a character reference in April for the Revd Robert Bailey, a former parish priest in the diocese who has been convicted of the sexual abuse of two girls under the age of 13 in the 2010s (News, 9 October).
In a statement on Tuesday, Carlisle diocese said: “The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, continues to co-operate fully and completely with the Church of England National Safeguarding Team investigation which is considering the provision of a character reference for the Revd Robert Bailey.
“It is important to note that there are no allegations of Bishop James presenting a direct risk of harm to any children or vulnerable adults, a point recognised by the National Safeguarding Team.
“Meanwhile, Bishop James has written to groups of which he is a patron or board member, alerting them to the NST investigation, which is being conducted in full accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidelines. He has offered to temporarily step back from any involvement with their respective organisations, until conclusion of the investigation.”
Bishop Newcome’s voluntary posts include National Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, and Vice-President of the Children’s Society.
The diocese also confirmed that he has temporarily stepped back from safeguarding decisions in the diocese.
The reference, which Bishop Newcome provided in April this year, was mentioned during Mr Bailey’s sentencing hearing on 28 September, although it was not read out by the judge. Bishop Newcome has since apologised, and requested that it be withdrawn.
Mr Bailey, aged 71, admitted molesting two girls while he was a Team Vicar in the Cannings and Redhorn Team Ministry in Salisbury diocese, a post that he took up in 2013, after serving in Carlisle diocese as a Team Vicar in the Cartmel Penninsula Team Ministry from 1999 to 2011.
Mr Bailey was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.