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Lincoln canon cleared of assault charges

04 December 2020

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Cardiff University, where Canon Overend was once chaplain

Cardiff University, where Canon Overend was once chaplain

THE Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, the Revd Dr Paul Overend, was cleared at Newport Crown Court on Thursday of indecently assaulting a Cardiff University student in 1997. He has always denied the charge (News, 10 January; 29 November, 2019).

He still faces a church investigation into the matter, however.

Canon Overend was accused of grabbing and kissing a woman at a party during his time as an ecumenical chaplain to the university. The charge was brought in January, and the trial had been due to take place on 29 June, but was delayed. He has been on leave since April 2019, and he and his wife, Sue, had to vacate their cathedral accommodation.

The woman alleged that she had been “frozen solid” by the incident, and “lost her faith” as a result. Canon Overend told the court that he did not know who the woman was, and that for him to behave in that way would have been out of character. The jury took one hour and 41 minutes to reach their not-guilty verdict.

Canon Overend was appointed to Lincoln Cathedral in 2017, and described it in court as his “dream job”. He taught philosophy and ethics at Cardiff and at Liverpool Hope University; was principal of the Ordained Local Ministry and Reader training scheme in Salisbury; and was assistant diocesan director of ordinands in Norwich before arriving in Lincoln, where his wide experience in public theology and education was warmly welcomed.

Speaking briefly after the verdict, Canon Overend described what had happened as “a wrecking ball” that had swept through his life. “No happy outcomes were possible today, only damaged and broken people,” he said, quoted in The Lincolnite. “I now need to sort through the devastation and seek to find again some of the joy and purpose in life.”

He reportedly said that ministers of religion made themselves vulnerable through their work, and advised faith workers to seek personal liability insurance.

A spokesman for the diocese of Lincoln said on Friday: “The Church acknowledges that any court process is difficult for all involved. The cathedral community and diocese both continue to offer support and prayer for all those involved.

“With the criminal process concluded, time is now needed to consider any further response that is required by ecclesiastical law, and according to House of Bishops’ guidelines and practices.

“There will not be any further statement while this process is carried out.”

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