Priest's adultery trial collapses

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The Independent Online
The last trial of an English priest for adultery in front of one of the oldest courts in the country ended abruptly yesterday when all charges against the Rev Edward Glover were withdrawn. Psychiatric evidence was brought to show that his accuser, Margaret Orpen, could not be believed when she claimed he had seduced her and made her pregnant.

The judge, the Rev Canon Rupert Bursell QC, said: "This case is one of enormous sadness, and which must raise enormous pastoral concern. The allegations made by Mrs Orpen were initially made to a national newspaper."

The Sun had published her story under the headline: "Randy vicar revved me up with a bonk in his Volvo."

Judge Bursell said "There can be and is no criticism of that newspaper for publishing that complaint. However, it was only after that article had appeared in the press that any complaint was made to the Bishop of Durham alleging that Mr Glover had been guilty of adultery with Mrs Orpen, one of his parishioners."

Both Mr Glover and Mrs Orpen are married, with children. He was at the time priest in charge of St Alban's, Trimdon. The bishop, Dr Michael Turnbull, heard from both parties to the case, and concluded that there was a case to answer. So did the "examiner" he appointed in the ecclesiastical equivalent of a magistrates' court hearing. The case then could not be stopped or withdrawn until it reached open court yesterday.

Yet the court was told that the prosecution, once it began to prepare its case, had found evidence that Mrs Orpen had repeatedly been told by doctors that she was not pregnant and had not been at the relevant time. A graphologist gave evidence that she had in fact written a letter in which she admitted that he did not love her - though she denied this in an affidavit to the examiner.

This, said the judge, explaining why he was allowing the prosecution to withdraw its case, was evidence that she had lied on oath at least once.

Judge Bursell said: "The psychiatrist would say that Mrs Orpen is suffering from a psychiatric syndrome. She has been diagnosed after a very full assessment by an eminent psychiatrist, as suffering from a condition - I don't think I need to name it - which explains her conduct. The illness itself is one which is delusionary."

Mrs Orpen was not in court to hear this, but she said in a statement that she still maintained her charges, even though she admitted they could not be proved.

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Glover afterwards, explaining why he had allowed the case against him to be withdrawn, said: "His compassion is such that he felt it wrong to see Mrs Orpen suffer under what would be a very proper but rigorous cross-examination.

"The allegation today is one of many that have been made against him. He has been accused by Mrs Orpen of many things, and his family have been harassed with telephone calls at all hours of the day and night."