A former Diocese of Lincoln vicar has been sentenced to ten years imprisonment for the “systematic abuse” of six boys over a 21-year period. On 15 December a jury at the Lincoln Crown Court found Terence (Terry) Atkinson, 70, guilty of nine counts of indecent assault after a trial at Lincoln Crown Court. On 23 Dec 2022 Judge Simon Hirst sentenced Atkinson to ten years imprisonment, made the subject of sexual harm prevention order and banned from working with children for life.
Prosecutor David Webster told the court Atkinson sexually assaulted his victims between 1978 and 1999 while serving parishes in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. The court learned Atkinson would invite boys, aged 10 to 16, back to his home where he would assault them by inappropriate touching.
Following deliberations of three hours, the jury acquitted Atkinson of one count of abuse but found him guilty on nine counts that occurred between 1978 and 1999.
“It is clear that each victim has been affected in different ways,” Judge Hirst said in his summation, noting Atkinson had caused “real and lasting damage” to his victims.
The allegations of abuse were first reported in the 1980’s and 90’s, but Atkinson denied the charges. A review of diocesan files in 2019 led to a police investigation which led to last week’s trial.
Following his sentencing, the acting Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt. Rev. Stephen Conway issued the following statement:
The sentencing of Terry Atkinson recognises the appalling crimes he committed while in positions of responsibility and trust. We understand that this trial will have brought back disturbing memories for the victims of his crimes, their families and those who witnessed the abuse of their friends.
On behalf of the Diocese of Lincoln I am truly sorry that these matters have only now been brought to justice. It is deeply shameful that those who were abused have had to spend most of their lifetime dealing with the aftermath of the abuse perpetrated against them. Tragically, for some, justice came too late. The victims and survivors of Atkinson’s horrendous crimes, and the families of those who died before justice could be served, have shown enormous courage. I wish to acknowledge their bravery in speaking out as their extraordinary resilience has enabled Atkinson to be brought to justice and it is thanks to them that he now must account for his actions.
“The Diocese of Lincoln will continue to support the survivors, victims and their families in any way we can. We promise to listen and help guide anyone affected by the harm caused in this case and assist and offer guidance to those seeking justice in whatever form they choose.
“I understand that survivors may not wish to meet me in person to receive my heartfelt and unreserved apology on behalf of the Church. However, I am available for such meetings and I am ready to write individually to any survivor or survivor family as requested
“The allegations against Atkinson were discovered and immediately acted upon during an extensive church file review. The Diocese of Lincoln continues to work collaboratively with statutory agencies ensuring that safeguarding continues to be a priority and central to all areas of our work.
“We are resolute in our determination to make our church communities and institutions safer places.
“If you have been affected by this or any other case, support is available. The Diocese is listening and taking action.”