*** DEBUG END ***

Extradited priest faces jail after abuse conviction

14 January 2020

Solent News

Meirion Griffiths arriving at court in Portsmouth during the trial

Meirion Griffiths arriving at court in Portsmouth during the trial

THE Revd Meirion Griffiths, a former Rector of St Pancras’s, Chichester, has been convicted of sexually assaulting two women in the 1970s and ’80s.

On Monday, at the end of a six-day trial, a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court found Mr Griffiths, aged 81, guilty of two counts of indecent assault, one of them involving multiple offences, against one of the victims, Julie Macfarlane, who was a teenager at the time; and two counts, again one of them involving multiple offences, against another woman, then in her mid-twenties.

Mr Griffiths was remanded in custody. A date for sentencing has not yet been set, but he has been warned that he faces a custodial sentence.

The conviction comes at the end of a long process. Dr Macfarlane, now a Professor of Law in Canada, made her first complaint to the Perth diocese in 1999. By that time, Mr Griffiths had been working as a priest in Western Australia for 11 years, first as Assistant Curate of Albany, then Rector of Collie, and then Priest-in-Charge of Maddington. An internal investigation was begun, and the following year Mr Griffiths was told that he faced a hearing under the Clergy Discipline Statute. He resigned instead.

Church TimesVersion of Julie Macfarlane’s 2015 account, with redactions proposed by official lawyers. The Church Times resisted, though in the end had to leave out Griffiths’s name and the name of the diocese

In 2014, Dr Macfarlane began a civil case against Chichester diocese. In late December, angered by what she called “litigation games” played by the law firm retained by the diocese’s insurers, Ecclesiastical, she approached the Church Times with her story. After extensive (and expensive) wrangling, the Church Times published a version of her story (Comment, 11 December 2015), though with the name of the priest and the diocese redacted.

Sussex Police had concluded that a criminal case was warranted. Despite claims that he was too frail, Mr Griffiths was extradited from Australia in January last year (News, 31 January 2019). A first trial, last August, collapsed when the jury was unable to reach agreement, and the judge ordered a retrial.

Dr Macfarlane spoke on Monday evening about her relief at the outcome. Her message to other survivors was that “it currently takes an enormous amount of determination, and lots and lots of time, but it is possible eventually to get justice and accountability. But I wish it were not so hard.”

The Sussex Police officer who supported the two survivors, Detective Constable Jo French, said on Monday: “This abuse has clearly had a profound impact on both victims ever since. Griffiths, by virtue of his position as local vicar, came to know them quite separately, and gained their confidence in order to systematically abuse their trust in him for his own sexual gratification.

“Both victims came forward quite independently five years ago, having finally found the resolve to come forward to seek justice. They have supported our investigation and gave evidence at both trials. We admire their resilience and courage in coming forward and doing so.”

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events


Church Times/RSCM:

Festival of Faith and Music

26 - 28 April 2024

See the full programme on the festival website. 

Early bird tickets available


Intercultural Church for a Multicultural World

28 May 2024

A Church Times/Church House Publishing webinar

Tickets are FREE


Church Times/Modern Church:

A Political Faith?

Monday 3 June 2024

This panel will explore where Christians have come to in terms of political power and ask, where should we go next?

Online tickets available


Church Times/Modern Church:

Participating in Democracy

Monday 10 June 2024

This panel will explore the power of voting, and power beyond voting.

Online tickets available


Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards


Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)