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  1. ITV Report

Vicar found guilty of sexually assaulting student on a transatlantic flight

Reverend Peter McConnell was found guilty of sexual assault Credit: PA

A vicar has been found guilty of sexually assaulting an American male student on a transatlantic flight. A jury returned a unanimous verdict at Newcastle Crown Court.

The Reverend Peter McConnell, who was a vicar at Longhorsley, in Northumberland, had denied the claim.

The 23-year-old PhD student said he was subjected to "sleazy comments" and groped under a blanket on overnight flight 0066 from Philadelphia to Heathrow in March 2017.

The 64-year-old clergyman, who was vicar at St Helen's Church, in Longhorsley, Northumberland, had been in the USA to visit his sister after she suffered a serious illness. The court heard he'd had up to five quarter bottles of wine during the flight, although he denied he was drunk.

The incident happened on a British Airways flight in March 2017 Credit: PA

The student said he reported what had happened to the airline and the Church of England. The police became involved as a result.

McConnell will be sentenced on 29 July 2019.

Reverend Peter McConnell appeared at Newcastle Crown Court Credit: ITV News
  • In a statement, the Venerable Peter Robinson, Archdeacon of Lindisfarne in the Diocese of Newcastle, said:

All forms of abuse including sexual assault are destructive of human relationships and contrary to the teachings of Christ and the behaviour expected of ministers in the Church of England.

We are distressed and dismayed at the actions of the Reverend Peter McConnell and our thoughts are very much with his victim, who showed great courage in coming forward, and his family. When the victim reported the assault to us, we immediately informed the police. At the time of the assault, Mr McConnell was not active as a priest and he has since retired from his role as priest in charge at Longhorsley.

The Diocese of Newcastle treats all cases of criminal behaviour with the utmost seriousness. We are committed to making sure that our churches are safe spaces for everyone and we have procedures in place to respond to any concerns that are raised with us. We would advise anyone with such concerns to contact Ruth Rogan or Andrew Grant, our Safeguarding Advisers for the Diocese of Newcastle, at r.rogan@newcastle.anglican.org/07825167016 or a.grant@newcastle.anglican.org/07741633670.

– Archdeacon of Lindisfarne in the Diocese of Newcastle