A FORMER Archdeacon of Auckland, Co. Durham, the Ven. George Granville Gibson, faces a possible prison sentence after being convicted last week of two historical sexual offences (News, 16 October 2015).
During the trial, one of his victims, a priest in his twenties at the time, accused the then Bishop of Durham, Dr John Habgood, of covering up Gibson’s activities. After the verdicts, the current Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, issued an unreserved apology to the victims, and ordered an independent review of all the circumstances.
The victim — who left the Church, and has only recently returned — told Durham Crown Court that he felt let down by Dr (now Lord) Habgood’s actions.
Mr Gibson, now aged 80, is a married father of four who was Archdeacon of Auckland from 1993 to 2001. He had previously served in parishes in the dioceses of Newcastle and Durham. He was cleared of five similar charges. He had denied all the offences, which also included assaults against two teenagers, alleged to have taken place when he was Vicar of St Clare’s, Newton Aycliffe, Co. Durham, between 1977 and 1983.
One of the teenagers, now in his fifties, was assaulted when he was an inmate at a detention centre near Consett. He testified that the experience left him feeling “sick”. He was “bruised, battered, shocked and very alone, and very vulnerable.”
The other teenager claimed that he was regularly abused by Gibson while a parishioner at St Clare’s. “He cuddled me, and pressed himself against me,” he said. “I just thought it was his job, as a man of the cloth, to comfort you. It went on for quite a few years.” He later took overdoses, and ended up in care. “I just wanted to blacken it out of my head,” he said.
Gibson admitted hugging the young churchgoer in “comfort”. He described him as a “rebellious” person whose family had asked him to look after him.
In his statement, Bishop Butler said: “We offer an unreserved apology to all the survivors and those affected. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.
“We are profoundly sorry for the abuse perpetrated by Mr Gibson, and remain committed to doing everything possible to ensure the well-being of children, young people, and adults, who look to us for respect and care. Abuse is a terrible crime and a grievous breach of trust, which has lifelong effects.”
He said that he was commissioning “a full and independent review of all the circumstances surrounding this case so that we can learn from what has happened”.
After the jury’s 10-2 majority guilty verdicts, Judge Christopher Price adjourned sentence until after an Appeal Court ruling on a similar, but unrelated case in the autumn. He granted Mr Gibson bail, but said that all options, including prison, would be considered. His name would also be added to the Sex Offenders Register.