Blackburn priest sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for abuse

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The Bishop of Blackburn has apologized to the victims of a former parish priest and hospital chaplain who was sentenced to four years imprisonment for molesting two boys.

On 10 May 2019 the Rt Rev. Julian Henderson released a statement saying: “Following sentencing today we offer an unreserved apology to the victims of Neil Gray.”

Gray, 71, was found guilty before the Preston Crown Court of grooming and abusing a 13-year old boy while serving as  curate at St Laurence’s in Chorley, in the 1970s.

The court found Gray then went on to groom and abuse a 12-year old boy at his next parish, St Christopher’s church in Blackpool. The abuse continued after Gray became vicar of the now defunct St Paul and St Oswald’s parish in Preston in the 1980s, as he would invite the boy to visit him at the parish rectory. Gray went on to serve as chaplain for 30 years at the Royal Bolton Hospital, retiring in 2015.

Bishop Henderson said: “We are deeply sorry for the abuse that they suffered and the impact this will have had on them and those close to them. We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward, acknowledging how difficult and distressing this would have been.

“The Church of England takes all allegations of abuse very seriously and is committed to be a safer organisation for all.

“The Church cooperated fully with the police throughout the investigation and we would encourage any victims, or those with information about church-related abuse, to come forward knowing that they will be listened to in confidence and offered support.”

In delivering his sentence, Judge Philip Parry said: “There can hardly be a worse kind of abuse of trust than a man of the clergy who uses his trusted position to abuse boys.”

“You were ordained almost from school. You were a highly regarded member of the local parish communities and you were trusted without question by the parents of your parish to take care of their children.”

The judge went on to say:  “I’ve no doubt you’ve achieved an awful lot of good, but these offences cannot and will not be overlooked by your behaviour since then.”