Thursday, 28 July 2016

Clergyman accepts hugging boy, but denies indecency claims

 DENIALS: Accused ex-Archdeacon of Auckland, Granville Gibson.

A FORMER senior clergyman has denied committing any indecent acts with male teenagers, although he did accept hugging one troubled young churchgoer in "comfort".

Granville Gibson was giving evidence on the fourth day of his trial at Durham Crown Court, where he denies six counts of indecent assault and one other serious sexual offence.

Two other offences of indecent assault, also denied by Mr Gibson, have now been dropped by the Crown, with agreement of the defence and Judge Christopher Prince, as an expediency to ease the ultimate jury deliberations.

The 80-year-old former Archdeacon of Auckland, from Darlington, is said to have committed the offences earlier in his career in the Church, when he was the minister at St Clare’s, at Newton Aycliffe, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Two alleged victims were teenage males, while a third was a young churchman, in his mid-20s, at the time.

Mr Gibson said he had no recollection of one of the complainants, an 18-year-old who was performing community service work at the church in the late seventies.

He is accused of committing one of the offences when later making a surprise unsupervised visit to see the 18-year-old shortly after he was admitted to the former Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett.

The court heard that in a police interview he said he had never been to the detention centre, but he then claimed he could not recall the occasion, when asked about an entry in an old diary found in his loft, detailing the visit and naming the complainant as the person he was going to see, alongside directions to Medomsley, all in his handwriting.

Asked about a “rebellious” young churchgoer who he agreed he had “taken under his wing” at the behest of his family, Mr Gibson said he would often hug him to comfort the boy when he was upset.

But he denied that this was followed by any further physical contact in the form of pressing himself against the boy, while aroused, or touching him over his clothing in the crotch area.

During questioning by his counsel, Andrew Stubbs, he was asked about a co-counselling church movement, whose meetings Mr Gibson attended as a young clergyman.

The court heard the movement advocated full body contact hugging, which Mr Gibson agreed caused him sexual arousal, whether with a man or woman.

Because of this the married father-of-four said he stopped attending the meetings and, asked by Mr Stubbs, he denied having ever participated in a, “physical homosexual relationship”.

But he added that he never spoke of this to his now late wife, Edna.
Mr Gibson will return to the witness stand to continue giving his evidence today (Friday July 29).