December 3, 2020 3.18 pm This story is over 41 months old

Lincoln Cathedral priest cleared of historic sexual assault charge

He wants to find some joy and purpose in his life again

By Local Democracy Reporter

The ex-chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral has been found not guilty of indecent assault on a teenage student in the 1990s.

Reverend Canon Paul Overend, 54, of Vicars Court, Lincoln, was accused of sexually assaulting the girl during a party at his house in 1997, while he was a chaplain at Cardiff University.

The alleged victim, a student at the university at the time, told the court that he appeared suddenly in the kitchen, alone with her, and proceeded to take hold of her and kiss her across her chest and arms.

The incident is said to have made the complainant “lose her faith” and not return to the chaplaincy for 18 years.

Overend denied the charge held against him and even denied knowing who the victim was.

He said: “It would be so out of character, I don’t relate to people like that.”

The jury was formed of nine men and three women. They reached their verdict after an hour and 41 minutes of deliberation.

He was cleared of the charge at Newport Crown Court on Thursday, December 3 and said that, despite the positive result for himself, the trial hurt everyone involved.

Speaking after the verdict outside the court, Overend said: “No happy outcomes were possible today, only damaged and broken people.

“I need now to sort through the devastation and see to find again some of the joy and purpose in life.”

The reverend was appointed the Canon chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral in 2017, but took sudden leave in April 2019 as a result of this allegation.

Dr Overend told the court that Canon chancellor was his “dream job” and he and his wife were forced to live elsewhere from cathedral accommodation after he was accused.

He will now have a meeting at Lincoln Cathedral on December 28 to discuss his future at the church.

A church spokesperson said: “The church acknowledges that any court process is difficult for all involved. The cathedral community and diocese both continue to offer support and prayer for all those involved.

“With the criminal process concluded, time is now needed to consider any further response that is required by ecclesiastical law, and according to House of Bishops’ guidelines and policies.

“There will not be any further statement while this process is carried out.”