THE Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, made “significant errors of judgement” when he wrote a character reference for the Revd Robert Bailey, a former parish priest in his diocese who has since been convicted of the sexual abuse of two under-13s in the 2010s. This is the conclusion of an investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team (NST).
Bishop Newcome provided the reference last April, at Bailey’s request. The following October, Bailey, 71, was sentenced to eight years and four months in prison at Swindon Crown Court, having admitted to molesting two girls while he was a Team Vicar in the Cannings and Redhorn Team Ministry in Salisbury diocese. He had taken up the post in 2013, after serving in Carlisle diocese as a Team Vicar in the Cartmel Penninsula Team Ministry from 1999 to 2011. The reference was mentioned at the hearing.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, the NST, whose inquiry followed House of Bishops guidelines, said that Bishop Newcome had received “an informal rebuke” from the Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, which would be filed. The Bishop would also undergo further safeguarding training. “Bishop James cooperated fully with the investigation which concluded there were significant errors of judgement in his handling of this matter.”
The Bishop, who stepped back from his charity positions during NST investigation (News, 4 December 2020), repeated his earlier apology to victims and survivors (News, 9 October 2020). He said on Tuesday: “May I begin by reiterating how sorry I am to those people who were hurt by the submission of a reference for Robert Bailey.
“This was something I did at his request and which I later recognised to have been an error of judgement on my part, leading to my request that it be withdrawn. I understand the anguish this will have caused those who suffered as a result of his crimes. I am deeply sorry for that and the survivors and their families will continue to be in my prayers.
“I committed to full co-operation with a subsequent National Safeguarding Team investigation. I have done so and accept the outcome completely. As I have previously said, I understand the need to learn from this situation and so I welcome the opportunity to engage wholeheartedly in further safeguarding training opportunities. Until that training is completed, I shall continue to step back from all diocesan safeguarding matters.”