THE Bishop of Carlisle has been “temporarily” removed as national chaplain to the Royal British Legion as church officials investigate why he wrote a reference for a paedophile priest.

The Right Reverend James Newcome later withdrew the reference for former Carlisle Cathedral Canon Robert Bailey, 71, and apologised.

Safeguarding experts from the Church of England are now investigating why the bishop wrote the reference.

During the process, the bishop agreed to withdraw from diocesan safeguarding decision-making. The investigation is solely about the writing of the reference.

It has now emerged that the Royal British Legion – the country’s largest armed forces charity – asked Bishop Newcome to temporarily give up his role as their chaplain.

A spokesman said: “We have recently been made aware that the national chaplain to the Royal British Legion, the Rt Rev James Newcome, is currently under investigation by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team.

“Once this information was disclosed, we took immediate action and have asked Bishop Newcome to temporarily step down from his role as national chaplain whilst the Church of England completes its investigation.”

The Legion said it takes its safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously and would review its decision to temporarily remove the bishop from his role, and take action if appropriate, when the investigation is complete. The spokesman added: “We regret that Bishop Newcome’s role as national chaplain and his appearance during the Festival of Remembrance while this investigation is ongoing may have caused distress.”

The Diocese of Carlisle confirmed the bishop has temporarily stepped back at the organisation’s request. “Bishop James continues to co-operate fully with the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team investigation which is being conducted in full accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidelines,” it said.

Bailey was jailed at Swindon Crown Court earlier this year after being convicted of sexually abusing two schoolgirls.

Formerly of Brampton, he used to work at Cartmel in south Cumbria.

At Swindon Crown Court one of his victims – now a teenager – said his crimes ruined her life.

Judge Peter Crabtree told Bailey: “The only person who should feel guilt in this case is you.” Bailey abused the two girls over several years.

After the case, Bishop James said: “Robert Bailey was a vicar in the Diocese of Carlisle from 1999 until his retirement to Salisbury in 2011 and is someone I have known for 18 years.

“In April of this year, and at his request, I agreed to provide a character reference to go before the courts.

“On reflection I considered this to have been an error of judgement on my part and asked that the reference be withdrawn.

I’m truly sorry that the reference was submitted and understand the pain that this will have caused those who suffered as a result of Robert Bailey’s crimes.

“I offer them my heartfelt apology.

“I will, of course, co-operate fully with the national church safeguarding team and any subsequent investigation around this matter, as I seek to learn from this situation.”