A former Sussex vicar has been sentenced to 38 months imprisonment after admitting sex assaults on a young girl almost 40 years ago.
Police emphasise that there are no current safeguarding issues for the church or the local Warnham community in relation to the investigation.
Detective Constable Michaela Pearce said; “The victim, who came forward for the first time in October 2016, met Spence through church activities when he became vicar at the church in 1974. He took advantage of her innocence and vulnerability, on one occasion assaulting her in the church belfry on the pretext of giving her a bell-ringing lesson, and also in her own home.
“She eventually managed to distance herself from him when she moved to secondary school and used the excuse of having extra homework to avoid spending time at the church.
“She kept this distressing childhood experience to her herself for nearly forty years, eventually finding the courage to come forward.
“When interviewed Spence denied the offending, and only on the first day of what was to be his trial did he admit the offences. The victim was ready to give evidence in court but fortunately the guilty pleas meant she didn’t have to do that.
“We are glad that justice has been done for the victim after all these years. This case shows once again that we will take seriously and investigate all allegations of such offences, no matter how long ago they are said to have occurred, and the historical element should not be a reasons for victims not to come forward.”
Anyone who wishes to report such offending or is aware of anyone else being a victim can contact the police at any time on 101 or online and arrange to talk in confidence to experienced investigators.
Sources of advice and support are also available on the Sussex Police website.