Church review of Bishop Whitsey case

On 22 May 2019, the Church of England announced a review into the allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The Press Release is reproduced below.

Independent lessons learnt review into Bishop Whitsey case


His Hon David Pearl has been appointed by the National Safeguarding Team as chair of the independent lessons learnt review into the Whitsey case [Statement from Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu and Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, 171017]. The Church supported a police investigation into allegations of sexual offences against children and adults by the late Bishop Hubert Victor Whitsey. The allegations dated 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.

The review is expected to be carried out in two phases and will include the case of Gordon Dickenson, once other Church processes have concluded. Dickenson, a former chaplain to Bishop Whitsey, was jailed in March after admitting sexually assaulting a boy in the 1970s.

Commenting on his appointment David Pearl said: “I am committed to ensuring that this Review will be both independent and transparent. The Review will examine all relevant documents and will hear from everyone who wishes to provide evidence to the Review.”

More Information

His Honour David Pearl taught Law at Cambridge University (1967-1989) and at the University of East Anglia where he was Professor of Law and Dean of the Law School (1989-1994). He became a Judge in 1994 and held a series of high profile judicial positions including Chief Adjudicator of Immigration Appeals, President of the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, Director of Studies of the Judicial Studies Board, President of the Care Standards Tribunal, and the Lead Judge of the Upper Tribunal hearing appeals from decisions made by the Independent Safeguarding Authority. He sat as a Deputy High Court Judge in the Family Court and the Administrative Court. He was also a Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission. In 2012 he was appointed by the General Medical Council to implement the newly created Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service which hears cases regarding medical practitioners’ fitness to practice. He retired from this position in December 2016.

The Terms of Reference for the review can be found here.

Extract from Terms of Reference

2. Objective of the Review

This review (“the Review”) will allow those individuals who have indicated that they have sustained harm at the hands of Hubert Victor Whitsey or another Church body or officer to describe their experiences. The Review will identity both good practice and failings in the Church of England’s handling of the allegations relating to Hubert Victor Whitsey, including its safeguarding practice, in order that the Church of England can take steps to enhance and improve its response to allegations of abuse and, thereby, ensure a safer environment for all.

3. Scope of the Review

3.1 The Review will focus on two related but distinct questions: (1) what did the Church of England know about alleged abuse perpetrated by Hubert Victor Whitsey, and (2) what was the Church of England’s response to those allegations.

3.2 In connection with the first question, the Review will consider:

(1) What information was available to the Church of England within relevant dioceses (see below) relating to Herbert Victor Whitsey’s alleged abuse of children and individuals, and whether this information was known to central Church authorities.

(2) Who had this information and when and what did they do with it.

3.3 In connection with the second question, the Review will consider:

(1) Whether, when the abuse was reported, Church officers and Church bodies responded in a timely and appropriate manner in line with policies, practice and procedures in place in the Church of England at the time, as well as appropriate statutory policy and legislation.

(2) Whether such abuse, and any further abuse, could have been prevented.

(3) Whether, taking account of the Gibb review [The Independent Peter Ball Review, An Abuse of Faith] , what additional lessons can be learnt which are relevant and which might improve safeguarding practice in the Church of England.”

Cite this article as: David Pocklington, "Church review of Bishop Whitsey case" in Law & Religion UK, 23 May 2019,

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