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Former vicar jailed for abusing teenage girl in 1970s

by Press Association
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PA

A former vicar has been jailed for eight years for abusing a teenage girl by making her perform sex acts on him by telling her "it was what God wanted".

Meirion Griffiths was extradited from his home in Perth, Australia, to be brought to trial for the abuse of the girl aged in her teens in the mid-1970s and against another woman in her mid-20s in 1982.

The 81-year-old was found guilty of four counts of indecent assault at Portsmouth Crown Court for the offences which happened when he was a Church of England vicar at St Pancras Church, Chichester, West Sussex.

Sentencing Griffiths, who emigrated to Australia in 1988, Judge Roger Hetherington described the "extraordinary" offences as an "enormous breach of trust between an experienced vicar and two highly-impressionable, naive and innocent" victims with lifelong "devastating" effects for them.

Richard Witcombe, prosecuting, told the court that Griffiths, who was married with two children, targeted the teenager who attended bible classes and social groups at his church.

The court also heard that Griffiths abused her while teaching her to drive as well as on trips to the beach where he took off all his clothes while swimming.

He said: "As a result of gaining her trust, he was able to abuse her and did so by telling her to perform oral sex on him, telling her it was what God wanted her to do."

The victim, who spoke by videolink, told the hearing: "The abuse that took place when I was a teenager has affected my whole life and continues to affect me, the fear, disorientation and horror has never left me."

Describing herself as a "chaste" teenager, she said that she had trusted Griffiths because he was a "man of God" and added: "Who would believe me? He was a minister who held a position of authority."

A statement from the second victim read to the court described how she attempted to commit suicide during the abuse and continued to suffer from PTSD.

She stated: "The abuse has caused profound irreparable damage and intense ongoing trauma.

"He knew I was vulnerable but despite this he used his position to control my life."

Detective Constable Jo French, of Sussex Police, said: "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. We admire their resilience and courage in coming forward."

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "Police emphasise that there are no current safeguarding issues or risks for anyone connected to St Pancras Church in relation to this case."

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