Surrey

Surrey vicar 'touched girls at Sunday school'

Mr Bennett arrives at court
Image caption Mr Bennett is accused of touching the girls while working as a rector in Oxted

A former vicar indecently touched girls during Sunday school outings, church concerts or while teaching, a court has heard.

Guy Bennett, 84, of Lewes Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, is facing 24 historical charges of indecent assault against 11 victims.

It is alleged he assaulted the young girls while rector of St Mary's church in Oxted between 1975 and 1991.

He has denied the charges as well as one charge of outraging public decency.

All but one of the girls he allegedly touched were between the ages of 11 and 15, Guildford Crown Court heard.

It is claimed he inappropriately touched the 10 schoolgirls and one 19-year-old as they put on choir robes, climbed down ladders and as he taught them at a nearby primary school.

'Tactile person'

Opening the case, prosecutor Eloise Marshall told the jury: "The touching was sexual and he did it in all manner of ways.

"He used his position in the church as a school teacher and school governor to touch them."

Jurors were told that Mr Bennett had four previous convictions for sexually assaulting four 11-year-old girls, dating back to 1999.

Bennett initially denied those charges but pleaded guilty on the first day of his trial, it was said.

Ms Marshall said: "What they describe is almost identical activity to what our witnesses describe."

She added: "The defendant admits there may have been touching, but says any touching was inadvertent and had no sexual intent.

"He said he was a tactile person and that touching was part of his manner with all of his parishioners both young and old.

"Other people have said that he didn't seem to be like that with young boys."

The trial continues.

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