Vicar ‘told girl: It’s fine with God to have sex with me’l

Stockport Express - - Front Page - PAUL BRIT­TON

AMARRIED Church of Eng­land vicar told a vul­ner­a­ble teenage girl it was ‘fine with God’ to have sex with her, a dis­ci­plinary tri­bunal ruled.

Si­mon Marsh told her she would be ‘dis­obey­ing him and God’ if she re­fused a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship and that it was ‘her duty to al­low him to be­have as he did.’

On one oc­ca­sion, the tri­bunal found, he got an­gry after she spilt cof­fee and ‘in­sisted’ she per­form a sex act on him. On an­other he ‘forced her’ into sex, say­ing ‘it would only hap­pen once be­cause God couldn’t ap­prove of more.’

Mr Marsh, 59, was vicar of St Michael and All An­gels Church in Bramhall at the time.

After a hear­ing of the Bishop’s dis­ci­plinary tri­bunal for the Dio­cese of Ch­ester, he has now been re­moved from of­fice and pro­hib­ited from ex­er­cis­ing any min­is­te­rial func­tions as a mem­ber of Church of Eng­land clergy for life. It’s the most se­ri­ous penalty the Angli­can church can im­pose.

The tri­bunal’s de­ter­mi­na­tion after the hear­ing read: “In­creas­ingly he used force, anger and pres­sure, phys­i­cal, emo­tional, and even the­o­log­i­cal, to com­pel her to sub­mit to his in­creas­ing sex­ual de­mands and grat­i­fi­ca­tion.

“He at­tempted to jus­tify his de­mands by telling her it was fine with God that he had sex­ual re­la­tions with her.”

Mr Marsh was ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of rape and sex­ual as­sault in 2014, but no charges were brought after the Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice ruled there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence.

The bur­den of proof at the tri­bunal, brought by the Archdea­con of Mac­cles­field, was to a civil stan­dard and the case against him was found proved in full. The de­ter­mi­na­tion and rul­ing have been pub­lished on the Dio­cese of Ch­ester web­site.

Mean­while, the Bishop of Ch­ester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, has apol­o­gised for ‘a sad and in­ex­cus­able tale of the abuse of trust and power by a priest.’

The tri­bunal ruled Mr Marsh and the girl met in 2009. Aged un­der 16 at the time, she was ‘look­ing for emo­tional and proper parental sup­port’ after what was de­scribed as an ‘un­happy, dys­func­tional fam­ily life.’ “She be­came in­ter­ested in the church and in deep­en­ing her faith and in­ter­est in Chris­tian­ity,” the tri­bunal ruled.

Mr Marsh of­fered her sup­port and she ‘shared her prob­lems’ with him as a friend. He also helped her to bap­tism and con­fir­ma­tion. But by 2010 the re­la­tion­ship had ‘deep­ened’ and he warned her ‘to keep their meet­ings se­cret,’ the tri­bunal ruled.

The re­la­tion­ship, the panel found, amounted to ‘a course of con­duct over four years’ and a ‘sex­ual re­la­tion­ship’ be­tween Jan­uary 2011 and 2013.

A ‘great deal of the ma­te­rial events’ hap­pened when she was a mi­nor and he be­came ‘in­fat­u­ated if not in­creas­ingly be­sot­ted by her,’ panel mem­bers con­cluded.

The tri­bunal ruled that in April 2012, he ‘forced her’ to have sex, telling her ‘it would only hap­pen once be­cause God couldn’t ap­prove of more.’

But fur­ther sex­ual in­ti­macy, the panel found, hap­pened ‘of­ten against her will’ and the re­la­tion­ship be­came ‘in­creas­ingly co­er­cive, ag­gres­sive and con­trol­ling by him, re­sult­ing in her end­ing it.’

Mr Marsh made ‘em­phatic de­nials of any sex­ual mis­con­duct’ at the hear­ing.

But in its judge­ment, the tri­bunal said he ‘seemed to us to be in to­tal de­nial as to the events in is­sue, main­tain­ing they had never hap­pened,’ with mem­bers say­ing they found him to be a ‘deeply con­trol­ling man.’

The Ex­press has at­tempted to con­tact Mr Marsh for com­ment.

●●Si­mon Marsh

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