The Bishop of Carlisle has been asked to withdraw from his roles with two national charities after he wrote – but then later withdrew – a reference for a clergyman convicted of child abuse.

The Right Reverend James Newcome apologised for the mistake.

He later said that he deeply regretted his initial decision to provide the reference for former Carlisle Cathedral Canon Robert Bailey, 71, who was jailed for sexually assaulting two young girls.

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

The issue they are looking into is solely his writing of the reference.

After the issue became public, the Royal British Legion asked the Bishop to temporarily step down as the charity’s national chaplain.

That was followed this week by the Children’s Society taking similar action.

A spokesman for the charity said: “As soon as we became aware that the Right Reverend James Newcome was being investigated by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team we asked him to voluntarily step back from his role as a vice president of The Children’s Society.

“As a children’s charity, our top priority is the protection of children and young people.

"Our staff and volunteers have an obligation and responsibility to protect, safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.”

The issue would be reviewed once the investigation outcome is known.

The Royal British Legion said it took its safeguarding responsibilities extremely seriously and it too will review its decision to temporarily remove the bishop from his role after the investigation is complete.

Cumbrian mum Antonia Sobocki, 46, who campaigns against clerical abuse, has demanded the Bishop’s resignation.

“We have to break through the taboo,” she said.

“If you’re a Christian, you have to talk about this.

"Survivors of abuse have to be our primary consideration.

"The Bishop says he’s sorry but has done nothing to prove it.

"Every day that he stays in post damages the church.”

A Carlisle Diocese spokesman said: "The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Rev James Newcome, continues to co-operate fully and completely with a Church of England National Safeguarding Team investigation which is considering the provision of a character reference for the Rev Robert Bailey.

"As previously stated, Bishop James recognises this to have been an error of judgement and asked that the reference be withdrawn.

"He has offered a complete apology to those who had suffered as a result of Robert Bailey’s crimes.

"It is important to note there are no allegations of Bishop James presenting a direct risk of harm to any children or vulnerable adults, a point recognised by the National Safeguarding Team."

Bishop James has written to groups for which he is a patron or board member, alerting them to the NST investigation, which is being conducted in full accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidelines.

He has offered to temporarily step back from any involvement with them until conclusion of the investigation, said the statement.

In an earlier statement after Robert Bailey was jailed, The Bishop said: “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.”

He added that he wanted to learn from the situation.