Second indecency conviction leads to 4-years imprisonment for retired Rochester vicar

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A retired Rochester vicar was sentenced to four years imprisonment last month for molesting two boys. Twenty six years ago, the Rev. David Beater (80) was convicted of indecent assault and stepped down as vicar of St. Botolph’s Church Northfleet, but remained a priest in good standing within the Diocese of Rochester.

On 23 August 2021 the Maidstone Crown Court sentenced Beater to imprisonment after he pled guilty to molesting boys aged eight and 13 between 1982 and 1985. Judge Philip Statman told the defendant that he had committed a “profound and grave breach of trust”, adding it was “noteworthy that some of the offences took place within the vicarage”.

The court heard that after his first conviction for a sex crime, Beater was transferred to St George’s Bickley in the Diocese of Rochester, serving there until 1990 when he became vicar of St Thomas’ Stanley in the Diocese of Durham. In 2001 he moved to St Andrew’s Seaton Hirst in the Diocese of Newcastle, staying there until his retirement in 2005. Upon retirement he moved to the Diocese of Canterbury and held a PTO license from 2007 to 2010. His license was not renewed, however, when a review found of his criminal conviction.

Press reports from the time of his first conviction state the then archdeacon of Rochester, Michael Turnbull, said Beater would be “staying within the care of the church”. Turnbull would go on to become Bishop of Rochester in 1988 then Bishop of Durham in 1994. 

In 1994 the News of the World reported Bishop Turnbull had been convicted of an act of gross indecency with a Yorkshire farmer on 30 August 1968. On 13 Sept 1968 Bishop Turnbull, who at the time was the chaplain to the Archbishop of York, pled guilty before the Hull Magistrates and was given a 12-month conditional discharge and fined court costs. Bishop Turnbull (85) told the BBC he had no knowledge of Beater’s actions after 1985. “I utterly condemn the actions of any perpetrator of abuse and will always do what I can to protect those who are vulnerable,” Bishop Turnbull said.

Following the sentencing, the Rt Rev Simon Burton Jones, Bishop of Tonbridge issued the following statement:

“We are deeply saddened and appalled by the Rev David Beater’s crimes and will be keeping all those affected by his actions in our prayers. 

“The victim impact statements read out in court demonstrate the devasting and lifelong impact David Beater’s abuse has had on their lives.

“We commend the bravery of those who brought these allegations forward and acknowledge how difficult this would have been. We apologise unreservedly to them for what has happened and for what they have experienced.

“The facts of this case raise concerning questions about decisions and actions taken by the Church in relation to David’s ministry. Because of this, the matter has now been referred to the National Safeguarding Team in accordance with the House of Bishops’ guidelines.

“Mr Beater is retired and has not been in active ministry for more than ten years.

“As a diocese, we take the safety and wellbeing of children and young people very seriously and have robust safeguarding procedures in place.

“Anyone with any concerns relating to this case, or any other safeguarding is encouraged to get in touch directly with one of our safeguarding advisers who will offer confidential support and advice – or to speak with someone else they trust.”