Vicar jailed for sex assaults

CHURCH leaders have apologised after a North Somerset vicar was jailed for molesting youngsters over the past 30 years

CHURCH leaders have apologised after a North Somerset vicar was jailed for molesting youngsters over the past 30 years.David Smith was handed a five-and-a-half year sentence at Bristol Crown Court for abusing his trusted position to commit sex offences against six young victims he groomed.He assaulted some of his victims during sleepovers at his Clevedon vicarage and on holidays abroad.The 52-year-old served as a vicar at St John the Evangelist Church in Clevedon, where Bishop of Bath and Wells Peter Price has attempted to reassure parishioners after Smith's sordid history was revealed.Smith was convicted of 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.Concerns about Smith had been raised with the church on two occasions once in 1983 and on another occasion in 2001, when a complaint was made to Bishop Jim Thompson when Smith was serving in Gloucester.Rt Rev Price said: "We have apologised sincerely to Smith's victims, their families, the parish and all involved in this case."We are very sorry that these offences were committed by a man in a position of trust."The 2001 complaint was made by a man who came forward after seeing Smith on television following the 9/11 tragedy in which Smith lost a cousin."He made an allegation about abuse which happened in a boarding school in 1976-77 when Smith was teaching before he went for training for the ministry."That man met Bishop Jim but made no formal complaint to the police and did not press charges."Bishop Jim informed the police of the allegation. Smith vehemently denied any wrongdoing."However, Smith agreed not to be alone with children, not to have children in his house and to be regularly reviewed by the then Bishop of Taunton. These measures were put in place to protect children, the parish, the church and Smith himself. "We did everything we could at the time and without a formal complaint to police there were no grounds to remove him from his post."When another complaint was made in 2005 we again immediately informed the police."The jury returned guilty verdicts to all charges after a two-day trial at Bristol Crown Court. During the trial Smith had adamantly insisted he had not committed any crimes against the six youngsters, some of which happened while he was serving in Clevedon.

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