A former Lincolnshire clergyman who admitted sexually assaulting a teenage girl has been jailed for three years.
Stephen Crabtree, who served as the rector of Washingborough and Heighington until 2014, pleaded guilty to a total of six charges of indecent assault on a 15-year-old girl when he appeared before Lincoln Crown Court earlier this month.
As previously reported, the offences occurred between April 1992 and April 1993.
At Lincoln Crown Court on March 31, disgraced 59-year-old Crabtree, who now lives in Bradford, was sentenced to three years in custody and placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.
Judge Michael Heath, passing sentence, said: “She was extremely vulnerable at that age and you took advantage. You knew she was 15 years old. You engaged in that relationship behind her parents back breaching their trust and the trust of the church.
“You stand before me in disgrace and you have lost your employment.
“I am satisfied that at all times you knew very well that what you were doing was wrong.
“These offences are so serious that I can only justify prison sentences for them. I cannot draw back from immediate custody.”
Mark Knowles, prosecuting, said the offences occurred when Crabtree was in his late 30s and the victim was 15 years old.
The victim later told police they had kissed and cuddled.
“She remembers the defendant saying she looked more like she was 22 than her age.”
Mr Knowles said the victim said that she had been intimately touched by Crabtree and on one occasion he had simulated sex with her.
She said she ended the relationship because she feared he would want full sex when she reached her 16th birthday.
The prosecutor said that the victim later told the then Bishop of Grimsby what happened between them and was advised to report the matter to police.
She then spoke to an officer in the area in which she was then living but decided not to take the matter further.
Crabtree subsequently admitted the offences to the Bishop on two occasions but was only arrested in 2015 after the church carried out a review of past complaints and the matter was passed on to police.
Sunil Khanna, defending, said Crabtree’s life fell apart in 1992 after his wife disappeared after telling him she was going to visit her sister. He later discovered she had emptied his bank account and moved to the USA.
“It was an horrendous time for him. He was devastated emotionally and sought pastoral help from the church but was told just to get on with things.
“He was in an extremely dark place. He was extremely depressed and unhappy and finding it difficult to cope.”
Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton of Lincolnshire Police said: “The sentencing of The Rev Stephen Crabtree is reflective of the appalling abuse he perpetrated upon a young girl.
“His position was one in which the victim, and the community at large, should have been able to place great trust. This was not the case; this betrayal of trust had a profound effect upon the victim in this case. It has taken great courage and a period of time for this abuse to come out.
“Allegations of abuse are always taken seriously by Lincolnshire Police and the Diocese of Lincoln. The police are currently working in partnership with the diocese to investigate a number of allegations of non-recent abuse.
“These investigations have come about due to a detailed file review carried out by the diocese and a desire to ensure truth and justice for all past victims of abuse.
“The sentencing of the Rev Stephen Crabtree is as a result of this investigation.”