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Church of England rebukes Bishop of Carlisle for 'significant errors in judgement'

by Will Maule

The Bishop of Carlisle has been dealt an "informal rebuke" by the Archbishop of York after submitting a character reference for a colleague who pled guilty to abusing children. 

Rt Rev James Newcome completed a reference for Rev Robert Bailey and handed it to a judge, who subsequently jailed the vicar for crimes committed against two young girls. 

Bishop James has repeated his apology to those "hurt by the submission".

"I understand the anguish this will have caused those who suffered as a result of his crimes," he said.

"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request and which I later recognised to have been an error of judgement on my part, leading to my request that it be withdrawn."

The Church of England's National Safeguarding Team opened an investigation after it emerged that Bishop James had provided the reference. 

It said: "The Church takes all safeguarding issues very seriously and is continuing to learn lessons from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which criticised the Church's response to survivors both at its public hearings and in its final report last October."

Bailey was sentenced to eight years and four months for the crimes, which occurred when he was working in Bishops Canning, Wiltshire. Sentencing him last September, Judge Peter Crabtree told the vicar: "The only person who should feel guilt in this case is you.”

Bailey had worked as an RAF chaplain for 24 years and had been a priest at Cartmel Priory in Cumbria. He had also been a canon at Carlisle Cathedral and had known Bishop James for 18 years. His crimes in Wiltshire were not related to his work as a priest. 

Bishop James noted that he understood "the need to learn from this situation and so I welcome the opportunity to engage wholeheartedly in further safeguarding training opportunities".

He added: "Until that training is completed, I shall continue to step back from all diocesan safeguarding matters."

The rebuke will remain on Bishop James' file. 

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