England

Vickery House: Priest jailed over sex attacks

Vickery House arriving at the Old Bailey - 20/10/15
Image caption Vickery House was convicted of attacking four males in the 1970s and 1980s

A retired clergyman has been jailed for six and a half years for carrying out sex offences against a boy and three men in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vickery House, 69, from West Sussex, was convicted of five counts of indecent assault, including two against a boy aged between 14 and 15 in Devon.

He denied carrying out the attack on the boy and said his actions with the men were "mistaken sexual advances".

House, of Handcross, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Thursday.

Judge Christine Henson QC told the former Church of England vicar: "You should have epitomised all that was good, honest and moral about society.

"Instead that was the opposite of how you treated your victims."

'Power over victims'

She said the good that House had done in his life had been "tainted by the bad things you have done".

Sussex Police Det Insp Jez Prior said this case was about the power House exercised over his victims "while he was responsible for ministering to their spiritual needs".

He also described House as an opportunist who "took advantage of situations in which to sexually assault them."

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

Three victims were abused by both men, who ran a Church of England scheme called Give a Year For Christ in Litlington, East Sussex.

"It is clear that some of House's offending in East Sussex took place at the same time that Ball was offending against his victims," said Det Insp Prior.

"We found no evidence that they offended together, but if Peter Ball had not pleaded guilty in September this year, then they would have been tried together."

Image copyright Sussex Police
Image caption Sussex Police said the inference from the letter was that Ball knew something inappropriate had taken place

'Protect their own'

Sussex Police have released details of the letter of apology Ball sent to a man who complained about House's behaviour in 1984, in which he expresses concern over "the affair you were subjected to with Vick".

The letter formed part of the evidence in one of the three counts of indecent assault of which House was cleared.

Det Insp Pior said: "We have no other evidence to show that Ball knew what House was doing but the clear inference from the letter is that he at least knew that something allegedly inappropriate had happened involving that young man and House."

David Greenwood, of Switalskis Solicitors, who represented some of the victims, said the case showed the church "should no longer be allowed to police itself".

"The whole affair demonstrates how high ranking officials have used their power and positions to protect their own."

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