Priest who admitted to sexually assaulting a 15-year-old was allowed to continue in ministry for 14 years

A Church of England vicar who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old was allowed to continue ministering for over a decade, despite having confessed to his bishop.

Stephen Crabtree has been jailed for three years having sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl

Stephen Crabtree, 59, formed an "inappropriate relationship" with a 15-year-old girl between 1992-1993 after the breakdown of his marriage.

He admitted six charges of indecent assault and was jailed for three years, and placed on the sex offenders' register for life.

Lincoln Crown court heard the victim told the Bishop of Grimsby in 2000. Rt Rev David Rossdale met with Crabtree but no further action was taken.

He met with Rossdale again in 2008, where he confessed to the sexual assault again, expressing remorse. Again, nothing further was done.

Crabtree continued in his role in the church, by this time as rector of the parish of Washingborough and chair of governors at the local primary school, until 2014 without any further investigations.

Details of both meetings were kept on record in the Diocese of Lincoln, but it was not until the appointment of a new safeguarding officer that anything was done.

The officer conducted a review of historic complaints, leading to the victim being contacted and details of the complaint forwarded to police. This led to Crabtree's arrest.

Judge Michael Heath expressed concern that the Church failed to contact police when they heard about the incidents.

The case is currently the subject of a Church of England inquiry and the current Bishop of Lincoln, Rt Rev Christopher Lowson, has issued an apology.

"The child had every right to expect to be safe in his company, and the devastating effects of his crime were compounded by the position of trust he held at the time," he said.

"I am very sorry indeed that it has taken so long for proper justice to be served. I struggle to imagine the impact that such a serious crime has had on the life of the survivor of Crabtree's abuse and on the survivor's family.

"I wish to pay tribute to their enormous courage and determination, and I hope that today they begin to feel that justice has been served. "