Warblington with Emsworth vicar resigns over 'sexual contact' with schoolgirl
A vicar has resigned after an investigation found he had 'sexual contact' with a schoolgirl.
Simon Sayers, of the Warblington with Emsworth parish, Hampshire, was arrested over an allegation of indecent assault, in London in the 1990s.
Police did not charge him, but an internal church investigation found his behaviour with the 16-year-old abused his position of trust.
He has been banned from ministry for five years by the Church of England.
The Metropolitan Police arrested the vicar in January 2015 after it was informed of alleged offences that took place in the Islington area when he was in parish ministry there in 1995.
Because of the 2015 police investigation he was suspended from the Church of England, but in April 2015 he was told by police he would face no further action.
However, a complaint was made to the Church that same month, prompting it to carry out its own investigation.
At its conclusion, the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, found the vicar "engaged in conduct unbecoming a clergy person and inappropriate for a married man" and prohibited him from ministry for five years.
Mr Sayers resigned from his post in London in 1995 after what he described as a "brief 'above the waist' incident of a sexual nature, with someone over the age of consent, and a brief kiss two days later".
He later became rector at the churches of Warblington with Emsworth where he served for 12 years.
In a statement, Mr Sayers said: "I have always believed that my behaviour in 1995 was wrong and fell below the high standards required of a Christian leader, and I am deeply sorry for the sadness the incident and its investigation has caused."
A spokesman from the Church of England Diocese of Portsmouth said Mr Sayers had admitted "his part in initiating that sexual contact".
It added: "The bishop's penalty reflects both the seriousness of the Rev Simon Sayers' behaviour on those occasions and of breaching the trust of a young person who had been in his pastoral care for some years.
"During the legal process, the Bishop of Portsmouth has visited the parish several times to offer his support to parishioners.
"The bishop and his staff have given practical help to the parish, its clergy and officers through this difficult period and will continue to do so."
Parishioners and residents of Emsworth have shown support for Mr Sayers.
When the resignation announcement was made in church on Sunday, several members of the congregation and choir walked out.
Parishioner Norman Peers said: "Yes, the Church has standards but the Church also preaches a message of grace, forgiveness and pastoral care.
"These things seem to be sorely lacking in the heavy-handed response by Church authorities. The hierarchy has turned its back on a much-loved man after years of sacrificial service."