England

Vickery House found guilty of historic sex offences

Vickery House arriving at the Old Bailey - 20/10/15
Image caption Vickery House denied eight counts of indecent assault against six males aged 15 to 34, between 1970 and 1986

A retired Church of England priest has been found guilty of a string of sex offences dating back to the 1970s and 1980s.

Vickery House, 69, from West Sussex, had denied eight counts of indecent assault against six males aged 14 to 34, between 1970 and 1986.

He told the Old Bailey he was ashamed of his actions but claimed they were not sexual assaults.

House, of Brighton Road, Handcross, will be sentenced on Thursday.

The former vicar in Berwick, East Sussex, worked under Bishop Peter Ball, who was jailed for 32 months earlier this month after he admitted molesting young men between 1977 and 1992.

'Terrible crime'

The pair targeted young men through a Church of England scheme called Give a Year For Christ, with three members being abused by both men.

House was found guilty of five counts of indecent assault over a period of 16 years. He was cleared of three further counts.

In a statement, the Diocese of Chichester said: "We are profoundly sorry for the abuse perpetrated by Mr House. Abuse is a terrible crime and a grievous breach of trust.

"The conviction today of Mr House marks an important step in the ongoing process of making sure those who have used positions of power to abuse others, are held accountable.

"There is no place in the Church for the abuse of others, or for failing to protect those who are vulnerable to abuse."

'Repressed gay feelings'

The court was told House first assaulted a 14-year-old boy in 1970 while he was a member of a youth church group in his parish in Devon.

The boy reported the incident to police in 2001.

When one man complained about House's behaviour in 1984, Ball responded by writing to say how sorry he was and to assure him it would be looked into, the court was told.

Ball and House were arrested in 2012 when police reopened their inquiry into Ball following a church review.

During the trial House admitted harbouring repressed gay feelings despite being happily married for 47 years and having two grown-up children.

Det Insp Jez Prior of Sussex Police said; "We received information from the Church of England in May 2012, concerning one of the victims who he has been found guilty of assaulting. The others came forward during the investigation.

"There is no evidence they offended against an individual victim at the same time, or that House was aware of Ball's offending," he said.

"If Peter Ball had not pleaded guilty in September, then they would have been tried together."

The Church of England has already issued an apology and announced an investigation into the way it responded to the allegations made against Ball.


Analysis: BBC South East special correspondent, Colin Campbell

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has commissioned an "independent inquiry" to find out if the Church of England covered up sexual abuse perpetrated by Bishop Peter Ball.

At least one of Ball's victims believes the pair were aware of each other's abusive criminal behaviour and colluded to satisfy their sexual desires.

The question the church must answer in the case of Peter Ball is why there was delay or failure by clergy to inform the police.

The church appears confident it will get answers but past church-led independent inquiries have shown that factual accuracy has not always been forthcoming.

There also remains real concerns among victims and witnesses about the churches suggestion that the inquiry will be truly independent.


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