THE Bishop of Chester could retire before the conclusion of an inquiry into how his Diocese covered up a vicar’s sexual abuse of a child, it has emerged.

Dr Peter Forster continues to evade the question of whether he was personally aware of a confession letter written by Revd Charles Gordon Dickenson in 2009.

Dickenson, 89, a former vicar at Christ Church in Latchford, Warrington, was jailed on Friday after he admitted eight counts of sexual assault against a boy in the 1970s.

During their investigation, detectives at Cheshire Police discovered the Church of England had failed to report Dickenson 10 years ago.

Dr Forster, said to be the Church’s longest-serving bishop, has faced calls to resign since the Standard and sister paper the Warrington Guardian broke the news of the cover-up on March 7.

The church has vowed to investigate its failings and apologised to Dickenson’s victim, who was in court to see his abuser sentenced.

This newspaper asked the Diocese of Chester for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer on whether Bishop Forster was aware of the 2009 letter.

In response, a spokesman said: “The 2009 letter was received by the Diocese and not acted on. We’ve apologised for that failing and acknowledged that had we done so the police may have brought a conviction sooner.

“The independent review, run by the National Safeguarding Team, will properly investigate how the Diocese, including Bishop Peter, handled this particular case, the terms of which are for them to agree and for the Diocese and Bishop Peter to respond to and cooperate with.”

The timescale of the review remains unclear and The Standard has been told the bishop is due to retire by March next year when he turns 70.

In a statement, Bishop Forster said he “welcomed” the opportunity to take part in the review but gave no indication of whether he directly knew about the cover-up a decade ago.

He said: “An independent review, led by the National Safeguarding Team, will be conducted in due course. I expect the review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned. I will cooperate with the review fully and welcome the opportunity to do so.”

Specialist lawyer's concern over Diocese of Chester cover-up of child sex abuse