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Disgraced bishop's aide Vickery House found guilty of string of gay attacks

Published 27/10/2015

Retired priest Vickery House, 69, was convicted at the Old Bailey of five counts of indecent assault on males
Retired priest Vickery House, 69, was convicted at the Old Bailey of five counts of indecent assault on males
Retired priest Vickery House, 69, was convicted at the Old Bailey of eight counts of indecent assault.

The right-hand man of pervert bishop Peter Ball is facing jail after being found guilty of a string of gay attacks dating back to the 1970s.

Retired priest Vickery House, 69, was convicted at the Old Bailey of five counts of indecent assault on males - with one as young as 14 - over a period of 16 years. He was cleared on three further counts.

During much of that time, House was vicar in Berwick, East Sussex, and worked under Ball - who earlier this month was jailed for 32 months after he admitted molesting young men between 1977 and 1992.

Four young men made complaints that they were abused by both clergymen when they took part in a Church of England scheme called Give A Year For Christ.

The scandal has been mired in accusations of an Establishment cover-up with former Bishop of Lewes and Gloucester Ball, 83, counting a member of the Royal Family among those who wrote letters of support before he was let off with a caution in 1993.

The first accusation against House was reported to Devon Police in 2001 - but for "unknown" reasons, officers failed to act.

When one young man complained about House's behaviour in 1984, Ball responded by writing to say how sorry he was and to assure him that it would be looked into, the trial heard.

The pair were finally arrested in 2012 when police re-opened their inquiry into Ball following a Church review.

House's activities dated back to 1970, when he was accused of twice indecently assaulting a 14-year-old boy who had fallen under his thrall in Crediton, Devon.

The second victim was assaulted after the defendant moved to Berwick, near the South Downs in East Sussex to teach Bible studies as part of the Church scheme.

He told House to stop touching him and made to go to bed, only for the older man to block his path and declare "I want you", jurors were told.

All the other victims were involved in or had friends connected with the Church scheme, jurors were told.

The final victim was attacked when he went on a country walk with House for a "deep and meaningful" chat in the early 1980s.

On his arrest in 2012, House denied doing any of the things he was accused of, saying he was "flabbergasted and confused".

In his defence, American-born House admitted harbouring repressed gay feelings despite being happily married to his childhood sweetheart for 47 years and having two grown up children.

House, of Handcross, West Sussex, said his first sexual experience had been with an older man he met when he went to theological college in Britain at the age of 18.

While he conceded that many of the incidents described by his accusers had happened, at the time he had "mistakenly" thought his advances would be welcomed, he said. He denied the incidents involving the 14-year-old ever occurred.

House repeatedly denied the accusation he had used the young men for his own sexual gratification and "without having any interest" in gaining their consent.

The jury in House's trial was not told about his links to Ball who was referred to in court as a senior clergyman.

Out of the four alleged victims which related to both clergymen, House was convicted in relation to three of them.

House, who will be sentenced on Thursday, gave away no emotion as as the jury returned verdicts after nearly 21 hours of deliberations.

The Church of England has already issued an apology and announced an investigation into the way it handled the Ball affair.

Richard Scorer, specialist abuse lawyer at Slater and Gordon, represented one of the alleged victims House was found not guilty of assaulting.

Following the verdicts, he said: "We welcome that House has been found guilty of some of the counts and note that he admitted making inappropriate sexual advances to our client.

"These convictions reinforce concerns about the culture of the Church of England and its response to child abuse within its ranks.

"This catalogue of abuse within the Church needs to be investigated by the Goddard Inquiry."

Detective Inspector Jez Prior of Sussex Police said that while Ball and House abused some of the same men, there was no evidence they were acting together.

He said: "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.

"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 whom 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.

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

He added that the police had "complete co-operation" from the Church of England.

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