Vicar 'kissed me passionately', says tourist board chief

A vicar tried to French kiss the head of a tourist board on her doorstep and then calmly discussed parish matters with her over a cup of tea, a disciplinary hearing was told yesterday.

Christine Collier, chief executive of the Cumbria Tourist Board, told an ecclesiastical hearing that she had been shocked and confused to find the Rev Harry Brown towering over her as he delivered his kiss. His arms had been outstretched as he bounded up to her door to congratulate her on securing her job, in July 1996, she added.

"One moment he was coming towards me ... and the next he was ... kissing me passionately," she told the hearing yesterday at St Chad's Church in York.

Mr Brown, 49, is appealing against a decision by the Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Rev Graham Dow, to sack him from his post in September 2001.

After making his advance, Mr Brown began discussing everyday parish matters, Ms Collier said. She made a quick escape to the kitchen where, with her "mind in a whirl", she "instinctively put the kettle on". But after carrying the tea to the sitting room, the vicar joined her on the sofa, put his arms around her and attempted a second "passionate" kiss, she said. "This time I had my wits about me a bit more, so I immediately pushed him away."

Ms Collier, who is 51, was made an OBE last year for her services to Cumbria. Though she immediately withdrew from church affairs after the incident, Mr Brown, who is in charge of Crosscrake and Preston Patrick, two hamlets just south of Kendal in the Lake District, failed to get the message, she said.

The hearing was told that after spotting her at a torchlight procession party in Kendal two months later, he began hammering on the door of a toilet she was occupying and, when she emerged, said he wanted to kiss her again. "I was not polite," Ms Collier told the hearing, which opened four months ago.

The bishop revoked Mr Brown's licence after more than a dozen parishioners complained about sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation, mental abuse and financial irregularities. Canon law C12 allows a bishop to summarily revoke a vicar's living "for any cause which appears to him to be good and reasonable".

The hearing, chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, was told that an initial evening visit by Mr Brown to Ms Collier's home, to discuss her decision to join the parochial church council, had been far more successful. The two had talked about her faith and she had sent him a card soon afterwards. The card said: "Nobody has ever given me the chance to talk so freely about my faith before."

Ms Collier's late decision to testify at the disciplinary hearing – she made her first formal statement about his behaviour in April – persuaded the former priest to make detailed claims.

Ms Collier laughed when Martin Johnson, Mr Brown's counsel, gave details of their alleged conversations. Mr Johnson said Ms Collier had visited the vicar to discuss problems with her marriage – dissolved, coincidentally, 10 days ago – frustrations with her work and sexual fantasies, which she "used up" through long-distance running, he said.

"That's just a lie, Harry. Come on!" she said to the vicar, who was sitting a few feet away. "I'm beginning to think this is a bit absurd."

Ms Collier also denied that she was an "unnamed blond woman" who had had an affair with another parishioner after a New Year's Eve party and that Mr Brown's ability to plant his French kiss proved she had welcomed it. "I've never used the term 'French kiss'. If that was a French kiss, I'm surprised it's got the popular appeal it has," she said.

"I feel that, had I not had personal experience of this, I would have been supporting Harry as much as other parishioners. I just felt they were caring, honest, good people and I thought they deserved to at least hear what happened to me."

Mr Brown knew Ms Collier because they were both on the governing board of a local primary school. The hearing is expected to finish today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent