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Vicar unfrocked: anger at lengthy legal process

23 August 2007

by Pat Ashworth

THE FORMER Vicar of St John’s, Clevedon, the Revd David Smith, has been prohibited for life. Mr Smith was convicted in May of sexually abusing boys in his care, and is serving a five-and-a-half-year jail sentence (News, 11 May).

There was anger at the amount of time between Mr Smith’s conviction and his removal from office. One couple told the Clevedon Mercury: “Surely the Church should have washed their hands of this man due to his awful crimes?”

The same paper reported “Disgraced vicar finally sacked” last Thursday. Parishioners in Clevedon had said earlier that the publicity was damaging the Church’s ministry in the diocese of Bath & Wells.

The Bishop of Bath & Wells, the Rt Revd Peter Price, said in a statement that the legal processes had taken “a frustratingly long time, but they have now been completed”.

No action could have been taken earlier because the Bishop had to comply with the time limits in the Clergy Discipline Measure 2003. A conviction is not substantive until 28 days have been allowed for appeal, at which point the Bishop told Mr Smith the penalty he was mindful of imposing: removal from office, and lifetime prohibition from ministry. Mr Smith then had a further 28 days in order to appeal.

Mr Smith also had the freehold. “It’s much more difficult to remove people with freeholds,” the diocesan spokesman, Prebendary John Andrews, said on Tuesday.

“The process of identifying the right person to be Vicar of St John’s” had now begun, said the Bishop. “A permanent appointment will be made as soon as possible.”

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