Former priest jailed over historic sex offences

Stephen Crabtree
Stephen Crabtree

A disgraced Church of England minister who admitted a series of sex offences against a girl under the age of 16 was today (Thursday) jailed for three years at Lincoln Crown Court.

Stephen Crabtree carried out the offences in the early 1990s after forming ‘an inappropriate relationship’ with the victim following the breakdown of his marriage.

Crabtree, who served as minister in a number of parishes, including in East Lindsey, and was rector of Washingborough and Heighington between 2002 and 2014, is no longer a practicing clergyman.

Crabtree, 59, who now lives in Bradford, West Yorkshire, admitted six charges of indecent assault on dates between 1992 and April 1993. He was jailed for three years 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 under 16.

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,” said Mr Knowles.

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 had 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.”