School chaplain will not be charged over sex assault claim

Durham School

Durham School

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter (Durham)

A CHAPLAIN from a leading independent school will not face charges over an alleged historic sexual assault.

The Reverend Philip Bentham, chaplain to the 600-year-old Durham School, was arrested on Friday, May 23, regarding an alleged historic offence said to have happened in Southport, in the Merseyside Police area.

In May, Rev Bentham, from the Bishop Auckland area of County Durham, was interviewed and released on bail until today (Friday, August 15).

But today a Merseyside Police spokesman said the force was taking no further action against the 58-year-old.

“We have carried out a full investigation of the allegation and no further action will be taken,” the spokesman said.

Rev Bentham, known to friends as Ben, arrived at Durham School from Bethany School, in Goudhurst, Kent, last September.

He had previously worked in Shropshire, Zimbabwe and Chile.

The allegation against him dated back several decades and did not refer to any incident at Durham School or any of its current or former pupils.

Rev Bentham had been suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation.

At the time of his arrest, a school spokeswoman said: “The school takes very seriously any allegations in respect of abuse and is providing assistance to the authorities as and when it is requested.

“We put child safeguarding at the top of our priorities and in order to allow the police to conduct their investigation in as impartial a manner as possible the member of staff has been suspended from duty at the school until further notice.”

The Merseyside Police decision will be welcomed at the school, which had already been rocked by the disappearance of its deputy headteacher Mark Bushnell, whose body was later found on an east Durham beach.

There are no known links between Rev Bentham’s arrest and Mr Bushnell’s death.

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