Vicar: 'I never abused boys'

A VICAR accused of indecently assaulting under-age children told a court how he developed a close relationship with a teenage boy

A VICAR accused of indecently assaulting under-age children told a court how he developed a close relationship with a teenage boy.North Somerset vicar David Smith insisted at Bristol Crown Court that despite the once strong friendship he had with the boy, he never sexually abused him or any other boys who claim he did.Rev Smith also told how he would organise excursions for young children as part of his youth work, but vehemently denied ever taking part in any sexual wrong-doing on the trips, specifically denying pulling down boys' boxer shorts and engaging in inappropriate wrestling matches.The 53-year-old, who suffers from a medical condition similar to multiple sclerosis, has been suspended from his position at St John the Evangelist Church in Clevedon, while he stands trial for 10 charges of indecent assault with a male under 16, two offences of indecency with a child, sexual assault on a child under 13 and sexual activity with a child under 13 between May 1977 and May last year.Standing in the witness box on Monday at Bristol Crown Court on the sixth day of his trial, which is expected to finish on Friday, Smith was asked about his relationships with boys.When asked by the defence whether he had ever abused any child he abruptly replied 'no'. He said he knew all seven boys who have claimed to be victims of sexual abuse. Three of these boys claimed to be victims since Smith became a vicar in Clevedon in 1993.He told of how he became close to one teenage boy, who would often visit him at his home. He took him on a series of holiday trips and the boy would carry out chores at his home and walk his dogs.He told how he developed a strong bond with one family and their children. He said on one occasion the two boys came to stay with him and he was asked whether he had ever had any sexual contact with them.He said: "No. There was one incident when the boys stayed at the vicarage but I cannot remember the reason why."Obviously they were excited about being away from home and staying with me."Smith then described how he sat on one of the boys' beds during a conversation before bedtime.He said: "I put my hand around his shoulder and gave him a squeeze to bring him towards me."I think at that point he misunderstood my actions and froze and got upset."He asked what I was doing. I was a bit shocked and thought 'what have I done?' There was nothing sexual."The case continues.

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