A FORMAL complaint of serious misconduct has been lodged with the Church of England against the Bishop of Chester, it has emerged.

Known as a Clergy Discipline Measure (CDM), it was brought against Dr Peter Forster by Sir Roger Singleton, interim safeguarding director at the Church.

A spokesman told the Standard that permission is currently being sought to bring the CDM ‘out of time’.

This is because under C of E rules there is a 12-month time limit between the date of the alleged misconduct and the lodging of the complaint.

In the case of Bishop Forster, the CDM relates to reports that in 2009 he ignored a letter from Warrington vicar Charles Gordon Dickenson confessing to child abuse.

Dickenson, now 89, was jailed at Liverpool Crown Court last month after admitting eight counts of sexual assault against a boy in the 1970s.

Chester and District Standard:

Vicar Charles Gordon Dickenson was jailed for child sex abuse.

It is not yet known if the bishop was directly aware of the letter or if there had been a breakdown in communication before news of its existence reached him.

The Diocese of Chester has previously accepted its failures, admitting that the letter should have been passed to the police for investigation a decade ago.

Dickenson remained free to officiate in the diocese until his retirement in 2014.

An inquiry by the Church’s National Safeguarding Team (NST) into the ‘cover-up’ will soon be under way, but this is separate from the CDM brought by Sir Roger.

There is currently no UK law that requires the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse – although campaigners have been pushing for such legislation.

However, bishops at the head of their dioceses have responsibility for safeguarding issues and are expected to pass on intelligence about suspected criminal activity to the police.

News of the CDM comes after Bishop Forster announced on Thursday (March 28) that he was delegating responsibility for leading on all safeguarding matters to the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair.

At the same time, Archbishop of York John Sentamu - who leads the 12 dioceses of the north – issued a statement saying he had been “informed” of this situation “in the course of a conversation with the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster”.

He added: “An Instrument of Delegation has been signed by the Bishop of Chester to formalise this change of episcopal responsibilities within the Diocese.”

Chester and District Standard:

Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

The Church has confirmed that Mr Sentamu will oversee the CDM for Bishop Forster and ultimately decide how to proceed.

Options available range from dismissing the complaint or taking no further action to imposing a rebuke or prohibition for life.

Campaigners and abuse survivors have been critical of the CDM procedure, claiming there can be no objectivity from an in-house investigation. Similar criticism has been levelled at the NST procedure.

But the Church has stressed it treats all complaints seriously.

Bishop Forster has led the Diocese of Chester since 1997 and is said to be the Church of England’s longest serving bishop.

In his statement on Thursday he said he would not make any further public comments until the end of an inquiry by the National Safeguarding Team.

He said: “I have asked the Bishop of Birkenhead, Keith Sinclair, to lead on all safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese of Chester and have formally delegated this responsibility to him with immediate effect.

"I have taken this decision in response to recent comment into my handling of the Gordon Dickenson case in 2009.

"An independent review will seek to identify where any failures in procedures arose, and what lessons can be learned and I look forward to contributing to the review and to giving a full account of my actions in relation to this matter.

"The Diocese of Chester takes seriously its safeguarding responsibilities at every level. Whilst an independent review into my actions takes place, I recognise that I should not continue to lead the safeguarding arrangements in the Diocese.

"I will continue in all other duties relating to my role of Bishop of Chester.

"I will not be making any further public comments in relation to this matter until the outcome of the independent review."