Elderly vicar found guilty of child sex abuse after Church of England cover-up

Church of England twice alerted to former bishop chaplain's behaviour but failed to act, court hears

Thursday 07 March 2019 14:53
Former vicar and child abuser Charles Gordon Dickenson leaves Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual assault
Former vicar and child abuser Charles Gordon Dickenson leaves Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual assault

A retired vicar is facing prison after he admitted to sexually abusing a young boy, as it emerged that the Church of England twice covered up his crimes and promoted him.

Charles Gordon Dickenson, 89, admitted to eight counts of sexual assault against his victim in the 1970s. He assaulted his victim in the church hall, vicarage and invited him to his home when his wife was away.

The victim, who attended Christ Church in Latchford, Cheshire had felt unable to speak about the abuse for over four decades.

Chester Crown Court heard the Church of England were twice alerted to Dickenson’s behaviour but failed to act on the information.

He was eventually caught when officers interviewed the victim in 2017 while investigating sexual abuse allegations of former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey.

He told police it was the first time he had spoken about the abuse after “burying it away”, calling it a “dirty secret”.

Dickenson, of Crewe, ordered his victim not to tell anyone about the abuse, the jury was told.

“The first incident occurred on a Saturday evening when the church would host dances in the hall, Dickenson told the victim there was a problem with the boiler and lured him into the basement," Prosecutor Myles Wilson said. “Dickenson, aged 45 at the time, sexually assaulted the boy and afterwards told him he ‘hoped he enjoyed it but not to tell anyone about it’.

“A few weeks later, while the church was preparing for Warrington Walking Day, the boy visited the vicarage to drop off decorations. As he went to leave, Dickenson took him into a side room and locked the door.”

The victim told police he was “full of dread” and was sexually assaulted again.

The assault only stopped when Dickenson’s wife shouted out his name.

Dickenson then told the boy: “I miss seeing you around, I hope you are not avoiding me.”

The third incident took place in the private sacristy after Dickenson lured the boy into the back entrance of the church, telling him others were inside.

He locked the back door and the doors to the sacristy behind him before abusing the boy.

On another occasion, he approached the boy outside the toilets before assaulting him.

After the final incident, Dickenson told the victim his wife was going away and that he wanted the boy to visit him at the vicarage.

The court heard he was moved to another parish and given a promotion after a female organist told her parents she had seen him “embrace” the boy.

When confronted by the church warden, Dickenson admitted: “I interfered and succumbed to temptation.”

He was appointed as a bishop’s chaplain and worked for another 20 years until retiring in 1994 although he was still allowed to officiate services until 2014.

A letter uncovered by police from Dickenson to the church, sent in 2009 as part of a vetting procedure, acknowledged the accusation of indecently assaulting a young boy.

It stated that Bishop Whitsey made him “promise never to do it again”.

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When interviewed last June, Dickenson told police he “couldn’t remember interfering with the boy but could remembering being accused of it”.

However, when the archdeacon visited him last year to offer pastoral care, Dickenson admitted his crimes.

In a personal statement, the victim said: “These crimes made me question myself. Why was it me? Was I a homosexual? The shame made me not tell anyone, the first time I spoke about it was in December 2017 to the police. The shame came out in alcohol abuse and the way I treated girls, until I met my wife.”

Judge Steven Everett said: “He was regarded as a man of God and was wholly trusted. He was put in a position where he could get away with what he wanted – he certainly has never said sorry to the victim.”

Speaking after the case, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Chester said: “We offer an unreserved apology to the survivor.

“He has shown bravery and courage to share his experiences with the police and we acknowledge how difficult and distressing this must have been for him. The Diocese of Chester has provided full co-operation with the police throughout the current investigation and anyone affected by today’s news should contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser.

“Information brought to light to the church in 2009, if acted upon then, may have led to the police bringing a prosecution against Gordon Dickenson much sooner. The Diocese apologises for not acting on this information in 2009. A review will now be conducted into the handling of the case, to identify where any failures in procedures arose and what lessons can be learned.”

Dickenson will be sentenced later this month at Liverpool Crown Court.

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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