The Consistory Courts can be traced back to the time of Edward the Confessor. In recent years they have usually been used to determine questions of church alterations. But they have also been used twice before in the last 30 years in cases of sexual misconduct, each time with expensive and humiliating results.
The Rev Tom Tyler, a Sussex vicar, cost the church pounds 300,000 in legal costs before he was finally convicted of adultery with a parishioner. In 1995, the Dean of Lincoln, Dr Brandon Jackson, was acquitted of adultery with a trainee verger after a three-day trial costing pounds 100,000.
Yesterday's trial was inevitable under the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure of 1963, since the prosecution had no opportunity until it came to court to withdraw its case in the light of the evidence.
The General Synod has approved new national tribunals to replace the old system. These, proposed by Canon Alan Hawker, will lead to an increase in trials, according to one member of his committee. But these trials will be fairer and quicker.Reuse content