A LAWYER who represents nine alleged victims of child sexual abuse by a former Chester bishop has said he is “extremely concerned” by reports of a fresh cover-up.

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater & Gordon, was responding to revelations last week that the Diocese of Chester had ignored the confession letter of a paedophile vicar.

The Standard and its sister paper the Warrington Guardian had lifted the lid on Revd Charles Gordon Dickenson, who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a young boy in the 1970s.

During a court hearing, it emerged that police had discovered the Church of England had missed two opportunities to report Dickenson, who is now 89.

The first was in the 1970s when former Bishop of Chester Victor Whitsey simply moved him to a different parish when he was told about the abuse.

The second was in 2009 when the Diocese, under the leadership of current Bishop Dr Peter Forster, failed to notify police of a letter from Dickenson reportedly confessing his crimes.

The church has vowed to investigate its failings but will not say whether Dr Forster was directly aware of the letter while an investigation is ongoing.

Mr Scorer has been representing the interests of nine clients who say they were abused by Bishop Whitsey in the 1970s and 1980s.

He told this newspaper that an independent inquiry into the claims was promised by the church in October 2017 when they first surfaced.

At the time police revealed that, should the clergyman still be alive, he would be interviewed in relation to multiple allegations. Bishop Whitsey died in 1987.

Following revelations of the cover-up surrounding Revd Dickenson, who was the vicar at Christ Church in Latchford, Warrington, Mr Scorer said: “This story is extremely concerning and reinforces the concerns of my clients about cover-up of abuse committed in the Diocese of Chester by the former Bishop Victor Whitsey.

“The church have been promising an independent inquiry into the Whitsey case for many months, but nothing has materialised.”

He added: “The church cannot be relied on to police itself - we urgently need all these instances of possible cover-up to be investigated independently, and until that happens victims will have no confidence that the church is serious about rooting out abuse.”

In response, a spokesman for the National Safeguarding Team at the Church of England apologised for the delay in starting the enquiry into Bishop Whitsey.

He said: "We promised an independent review into the Whitsey case and terms of reference and the independent reviewer are now being finalised.

“We apologise for the length of time this has taken to sort and for any distress this may have caused survivors.”

He added: “A separate lessons learnt review will be carried out into the case of the Revd Dickenson."