Hi-tech crucifix is the answer to every frightened vicar's prayer

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The Independent Online
VICARS are to be offered a discreet personal alarm hidden in a silver crucifix, to counter a rising tide of violence against them, writes Clare Garner.

The need for such a drastic measure is highlighted in a survey, to be published next month, which reveals that one in 10 clerics has been attacked, nearly one in three has been threatened, and two out of three would consider wearing a discreet alarm.

The pounds 169 device, three and a half inches long and two and a quarter inches wide, is worn on a chain around the neck. If pulled, it comes off and a siren, audible at least 150 yards away, is activated.

Tony McCarthy, of Avon Silversmiths Ltd, Birmingham, who designed the alarm, said: "It looks like an ordinary crucifix, but one tug will set it off - and it's loud.

"It's a terrible thing to turn on the news and hear of another nun or priest being attacked. Anything that can provide some kind of protection for these people is better than none. At the moment, they are easy prey."

Mr McCarthy is confident his product, which goes on sale on 19 May at the annual National Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) at Sandown Park, Esher, Surrey, will sell well. When Canon Dennis Claringbull, vicar of St Paul's in Birmingham, saw the prototype, he was instantly taken with the idea. "I have been mugged myself and I must have one," he said.

The launch of the alarm coincides with the publication of the most comprehensive analysis of violence against clergy in the UK. Nearly one in five of 242 clergy questioned for the survey, commissioned by the CRE, said their families had been threatened or attacked, and approximately one in seven had no-go areas within the community they served. Vicars were most at risk in their homes.

The 2,000 clergy attending the exhibition will be offered lessons by a former senior police officer in how to react to trouble. Gospatric Home, the founder of CRE, said: "We are surprised how prevalent violence is in some traditionally 'safe' areas. These demonstrations will have a practical benefit for all those at the front line of Christian ministry."