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London priest evicted on grounds of age after six-year legal battle

10 July 2024

He has remained in the rectory rent-free until now’ says diocese

PAUL WILLIAMSON

The Revd Paul Williamson unscrews the crucifix from the front door of the house, on Tuesday morning

The Revd Paul Williamson unscrews the crucifix from the front door of the house, on Tuesday morning

A PRIEST in the diocese of London has been evicted from the vicarage that he occupied for six years after he was deemed to be retired. The Revd Paul Williamson was the Priest-in-Charge of St George’s, Hanworth, from 1992 until he reached retirement age in 2018.

He consistently disputed the established policy, and mounted several legal challenges in an attempt to stay in post. None was successful, and he remained in the diocesan property in Middlesex until this week, when a court eviction notice, dated 17 July, stated that he would be removed if not out by 9 June.

On leaving the property, Fr Williamson addressed the bailiffs along with a group of friends, former colleagues, and parishioners. He unscrewed a crucifix from the front door, and said that he would be sending a spare key to the King as Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

“You can be an MP, a member of the House of Lords, made a king, be a musician, an actor, or a TV presenter over the age of 70, but not a priest in office in a parish in the Church of England. Our late dear Queen was in office and active until age 96. The apostles did not retire from their office.”

Speaking to the Church Times afterwards, Fr Williamson said that he had “felt suicidal through the threat of eviction, and have maintained all along that this matter is about age discrimination. My common tenure does not have retirement at the age of 70, and I have been fighting that.

“I’m staying at the youth-club headquarters near the rectory, supported by friends and surrounded by boxes and bags. I have left the property relatively clear, but now want to take the case to the Supreme Court. Lady Hale said there is no exemption to discrimination that is not overturned by human rights.”

Two years ago, his appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, based on alleged age discrimination, was dismissed by its President, Mrs Justice Eady, and he was described as a “vexatious litigant” going back to a Civil Proceedings Order made against him in 1997 (News, 23 August 2022). He has also continually said that he no longer has any money for further legal fees.

A spokesperson for the diocese of London said: “The Revd Paul Williamson’s tenure in office came to an end in 2018 when he turned 70. His licence was extended for a six-month period, to 28 April 2019, and he was given additional time to stay in the rectory until July 2019. He has remained in the rectory rent-free until now, requiring the diocese to provide alternative accommodation for clergy ministering in the parish.

“Mr Williamson’s eviction follows the issuing of a possession order by Staines County Court. The diocese has offered pastoral and practical support to Mr Williamson over the last six years, and has done so again ahead of today, including the offer of help in finding suitable accommodation, which we are reassured to know he has secured.”

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