Vicar cleared of raping schoolgirl

A jury took just an hour to clear a vicar today of raping and abusing a schoolgirl.

The Rev Malcolm Jackson, 52, vicar of Kirkleatham, Teesside, smiled and looked up as the foreman gave "not guilty" verdicts on the four serious charges he faced.



The married father-of-four was cleared of rape, attempted rape, sexual activity with a child and causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity following a week-long trial at Teesside Crown Court.



Mr Jackson looked close to tears as he left the dock before hugging a female well-wisher in the public gallery.



He declined to comment about the ordeal, which saw him suspended from his role as vicar.



That suspension has now been lifted, though the Archbishop of York has recommended he take time off to recover.



Outside court Eleanor Course, communications officer for the Diocese of York, said: "We are glad that the Rev Malcolm Jackson has been acquitted of all charges.



"We are praying for everyone who was involved in the case."



His accuser, who cannot be identified, told the court the vicar tried to rape her in the church hall office, but that she struggled and fought him off.



She also accused him of further abuse, including a rape allegation, over a period of months.



Mr Jackson said the claims were lies, and the court heard he told police: "I am amazed at the number of allegations she has made against me, to be honest."



Giving evidence from the witness box, he told his barrister Adrian Dent: "I have been under a lot of stress for the last few years.



"My health isn't too good."



The jury heard personal testimonials from members of the clergy and youth group leaders who described him as "an inspiration to young people" and a "well-liked and respected, trusted professional".