Budapest George Ezra
24 October 2014, 16:00
A retired priest has been cleared of indecently assaulting a young girl after what his barrister described as a "grotesque'' inquiry into the allegation.
Jurors at Birmingham Crown Court took around two hours to acquit Father Edward Simpson of indecently touching the girl during the mid-1980s.
The 85-year-old clergyman, of Olton Friary, Solihull, told his trial he could not understand why the historic allegation was made against him last year.
His alleged victim, now in her 40s, told the court she had been groped while in the same room as her parents. But two further witnesses, who had not been interviewed by police before the proceedings were brought, claimed the alleged assault could not have happened.
After Fr Simpson was acquitted, Judge Sybil Thomas thanked jurors for their careful consideration of the case and expressed concern at the police decision not to interview a number of potential witnesses.
The judge told prosecutor Anthony Potter: "The court is concerned about the investigation, or rather the lack of it.
"The prosecution has considerable duties in any case but, you may think, rather greater duties in something from 30 years ago.
"I know I don't have to spell out to you the matters that were canvassed in evidence but the prosecution has a duty to disclose not only matters which are supportive of its case, but matters which are not.
"The decision not to interview many of the potential first-hand witnesses does seem at first sight to have been a strange one.''
During the week-long trial, defence QC Rex Tedd asserted that any any movement made by the priest at the time the assault was alleged to have happened would have "inevitably been obvious'' to the victim's father.