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Priest barred over intimate text messages

Gareth Llewellyn,Press Association
Thursday 11 June 2009 16:36 BST

A priest has been barred from holding a licence after he admitted sending "sexual and intimate" text messages to a teenage parishioner.

The Church in Wales placed the indefinite restriction upon the Rev David Waters after his suspension as Rector of St Catwg's Church in Gelligaer, south Wales, in June 2007.

Mr Waters was made subject to an internal investigation after allegations were made about him sending messages to a female parishioner. As she was 16 at the time and therefore over the age of consent, South Wales Police did not investigate.

Before his tribunal last October, Mr Waters resigned from all posts within the church.

At the tribunal, Mr Waters admitted through his solicitor that on several occasions before the end of May 2007 he sent "inappropriate text messages, in that they contained words or phrases that were unseemly and of a sexual and intimate nature".

The tribunal summary added: "He further accepted that such conduct was scandalous and offensive."

His solicitor claimed he was suffering from a mental illness at the time.

In November 2007, a few months after his suspension, Mr Waters told the Merthyr Express newspaper he had lost his faith and suffered a mental breakdown and as a result could no longer carry out his clergy duties.

Although he has not been defrocked, the ban means if Mr Waters wishes to apply for a licence or obtain permission to officiate in any Diocese of the Church in Wales again, he must provide written medical evidence that he is not at risk of repeat behaviour.

It will then be up to the individual bishop to decide whether to grant such a licence or permission.

A statement from the Church in Wales said: "The Rev David Waters was referred to the Disciplinary Tribunal of the Church in Wales, in respect of an allegation of conduct giving just cause for scandal or offence committed during his time as an incumbent in the Parish of Gelligaer.

"Having admitted the offence, Mr Waters has been inhibited from holding a licence or obtaining permission to officiate in any Diocese in the Church in Wales.

"The Tribunal recognised that at the time of his offences, the Rev David Waters was suffering from a form of mental illness and the inhibition will remain in force unless and until he provides to a bishop written medical opinion that he is no longer at risk of repeat behaviour, at which stage it would be for the individual bishop to determine the grant of such licence or permission."

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