Priest appears in court charged with historic sex offences

Court case
Court case

A charismatic Church of England priest used his position of authority to sexually abuse six men during the 1970s and 1980s, a court has heard.

Vickery House, 69, allegedly abused a schoolboy in 1970 after offering him a role as server in the Devon parish of Crediton, before abusing five other men between 1976 and 1986 while working as a vicar in Devon and Sussex.

The married curate from Seattle, US was initially arrested and interviewed in relation to two of the adult victims in 2012 and denied making any sexual advances, saying he was ‘flabbergasted’ by the allegations.

House now accepts sexual contact did take place relating to four of the adult victims but denies they were indecent assaults, the court heard.

Prosecutor Jacob Hallam told jurors the case was about sexual desires, betrayal of trust and betrayal of responsibility.

“The defendant was first a curate and then a vicar within the Church of England and he was a married man,” said Mr Hallam.

“The victims were in positions that were subservient to him when he committed the offences.

“Mr House used his position of authority to make sexual advances which were unwanted but when he was rebuffed he would stop.

“It is opportunistic sexual offending towards people in subservient positions within the church.”

The first victim met House when he was a grammar school pupil in the village of Crediton.

House invited the boy to be a server in the church and ‘made him feel special’, the court heard.

Mr Hallam said: “He was a charismatic figure, born in Seattle, he knew about poetry and music and art.

“He brought a dynamism to the church that impressed many people and had an appreciation of the theatre of the church service.”

During a trip to North Devon in February 1970, House indecently assaulted the boy during a massage as he lay in bed.

House struck again when the boy was a year older but the victim escaped after they were interrupted by the doorbell ringing.

The victim was unable to reveal what happened until 2001 but when he went to police ‘it seems nothing was done’, said Mr Hallam.

House groped the second victim in Devon between 1976 and 1978 and in Berwick, East Sussex between 1980 and 1985.

He allegedly attacked the third victim in East Sussex between 1980 and 1985.

The fourth victim claims House groped him as he slept at a house in Hastings in East Sussex between 1984 and 1986.

House allegedly told him he couldn’t stop himself and ‘the only way he would stop was if [the victim] went and locked himself in another room’, said Mr Hallam.

He then groped the fifth victim after inviting him to stay at a house in Streatham, south London, it is claimed.

The sixth victim claims he was attacked by House during a walk on the Downs in East Sussex between 1985 and 1986.

House, of Brighton Road, Handcross, West Sussex, denies eight counts of indecent assault.

The trial continues.

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