A VICAR who sexually assaulted a child at his church had his crimes covered up by the Church of England twice and was promoted to a higher position in another parish.

Charles Gordon Dickenson appeared at Chester Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to eight counts of sexual assault on a child.

The crimes took place in the 1970s while Dickenson, now 89, was the vicar at Christ Church in Latchford, Warrington.

Four incidents happened during the course of a few months in both the church hall and the vicarage.

While officers from Cheshire Police were investigating allegations of sexual abuse under former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey, they came across a complaint lodged against Dickenson - which the Church of England had failed to act on.

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Former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey died in 1987 but has since been linked to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Police approached the victim in September 2017 who told officers it was the first time he had ever spoken about the abuse after 'burying it away', calling it a 'dirty secret'.

Myles Wilson, prosecuting, told the court: "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.

"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.

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Christ Church in Latchford, where some of the abuse took place.

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 defendant was moved to another parish 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'.

When interviewed in June 2018, Dickenson told police he 'couldn't remember interfering with the boy but could remembering being accused of it'.

However, when the archdeacon visited the defendant last year to offer pastoral care, Dickenson, from Crewe, admitted to him that he had abused the boy.

In a victim personal statement, the man 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."

He only told his wife about the past when the police contacted him and told the court he has not discussed it with any friends or other family.

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Former vicar and child abuser Charles Dickenson leaves Chester Crown Court. Picture by Steve Creswell.

Kay Driver, defending, said: "Dickenson shows genuine remorse and through me, wanted to say how very sorry he is for all those years ago.

"There was an admission at the time and again in 2009, there were two missed opportunities to deal with this earlier."

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."

Miss Driver argued that Dickenson is now suffering from the early stages of dementia, along with other health problems.

She said these made him 'confused' and why he 'couldn't remember the specifics of the incident' when talking to the police.


Speaking after the case, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Chester said: “We can confirm that retired priest, Gordon Dickenson, has pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual activity with a child. "This refers to his time as Vicar of Christ Church, Latchford.

“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."


Police were first notified of the attacks in 2017, after Cheshire Police published a report into former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey, who has now died.

Detective inspector Nigel Reid, who was in charge of the investigation for Cheshire Police, said: “Dickenson preyed on the vulnerability of his young victim for his own sexual gratification betraying the trust of a child.

“He committed these terrible offences whilst in a position of trust. It has only been through the strength and bravery of the victim, who has had to live with what happened to him for many years that the abuse has come to light and Dickenson has been held to account for his actions.

“This has been a difficult and protracted police investigation but it carries an important message – if you are a victim of abuse it doesn’t matter how long ago it took place, what matters is finding the courage to come forward and talk about it.

"It is important for the victim’s voice to be heard and this case highlights the fact that anyone who commits offences against children are not above the law and they will be brought to justice, regardless of the passing of time."


Martin McRobb, a specialist sexual offences prosecutor with Mersey Cheshire Crown Prosecution Service, said: “It is a sad reality that sex offenders and particularly those who target children can be found in all walks of life.

"It is nevertheless very disturbing to discover that someone who would have been so respected in his life as a local vicar could have committed such acts of sexual abuse upon a young boy in his community.

“The message to such offenders is that no profession or position of public prominence will ever provide a safe haven for criminal behaviour.

"Whoever you are and whatever you do, if you offend you will be brought to justice.

“The Crown Prosecution Service would like to pay tribute to the huge courage shown by the victim in this case.

"He has lived all his life affected by the mental scars of Gordon Dickenson’s appalling conduct. Without his support and assistance, justice in this case could not have been done.”

Chester and District Standard:

Charles Dickenson will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court later this month. Picture by Steve Creswell.

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

His disabilities mean he could not walk down the steps to the cells at Chester Crown Court, should he receive an immediate prison sentence. Liverpool has more modern facilities for disabled prisoners.

Judge Everett chose to hear the bulk of the case at Chester, but will pass sentence at Liverpool.