Retired priest found guilty of historic sex offences

Court case
Court case

A now retired Church of England priest has been convicted of five sexual offences against four young men in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vickery House, 69, of Brighton Road, Handcross, was convicted on Tuesday (October 27) after a 12-day trial at the Old Bailey.

The case was adjourned for sentencing on Thursday (October 29). House remains on court bail meanwhile.

House had been charged on January 28, 2014, on the authority of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), following an investigation by detectives from Sussex Police over the previous 18 months.

He was arrested in November 2012 and had been on police bail until CPS authority was given for him to be charged.

He was found guilty of two offences against a boy in Devon between 1970 and 1971; one offence in East Sussex between 1983 and 1985 against another man; one offence against a man in East Sussex in 1981 and one offence against another man in East Sussex in 1985.

He was found not guilty of one offence in Devon against the second victim and of one offence against each of two other men, in East Sussex and in London.

Detective Inspector Jez Prior of Sussex Police said: “This complex investigation began when 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.

“The case was about power that House, who was a priest when all these offences were committed, exercised while he was responsible for ministering to their spiritual needs, and it was about opportunism, as he took advantage of situations in which to sexually assault them.

“Our investigation into House began in May 2012 when we followed up information we received from the Church of England about Bishop Peter Ball. This led us to the first of House’s victims, three others came forward as a result of publicity about our investigation later that year, and the other victim was traced by police as a result of the investigation.

“Ball was sentenced to 32 months imprisonment at the Old Bailey on 7 October as a result of our investigation of his offending.

“We had complete co-operation from the Church of England throughout this investigation.

“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, three of who were also victims of House, while the pair were engaged in helping to run a religious study project at a then Church-run centre in Litlington, East Sussex. 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.

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

“All the victims were ready to give evidence in court. The statements of two of them were shown by video and the defence did not seek to cross-examine them.

“House pleaded not guilty throughout, and we admire their resolve and strength of purpose, which has enabled a man who abused his privileged position to be brought to justice.”

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