Cathedral Priest faces sex charges

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A Priest based at Lancaster Cathedral was this week charged with three counts of indecent assault.

Canon Stephen Shield, 53, who was dean at the Roman Catholic cathedral in St Peter’s Road, Lancaster, was arrested by police on March 23.

On Tuesday he was charged with three sexual offences relating to one male and bailed to appear before Preston magistrates on Wednesday, April 17.

The offences are alleged to have been committed more than two decades ago when the alleged victim was aged between 17 and 24.

A Lancaster diocese spokesman this week confirmed that Shield had withdrawn from the ministry pending the outcome of the court proceedings.

The spokesman said: “With the greatest of regret the diocese announces that Canon Stephen Shield, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Lancaster, has been charged by the police with three counts of indecent assault against one individual.

“In accordance with established safeguarding policies and procedures of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Canon Stephen Shield has temporarily withdrawn from public ministry – until the matter is resolved in full.

“Such temporary withdrawal from public ministry does not constitute Canon Shield’s removal from office as parish priest, nor does it in any way imply guilt on his part.

“For its part the diocese will work to resolve this case as expeditiously as possible and in a manner that is fair to all parties.”

The Bishop of Lancaster, Rt Rev Michael Campbell, added: “We are committed to the protection and safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults in our care.

“The faithful and the clergy of the diocese join me in this pledge of prayerful support.”

The diocese says it works closely with the police and statutory authorities to report and investigate instances of sexual abuse, screening clergy, employees and volunteers, and implementing effective training programmes.

Anyone with personal safeguarding concerns relating to the matter should contact its diocesan safeguarding officer Deacon Chris Barwise at dpolancaster@btconnect.com or on 01772 728433.

Shield’s arrest comes just weeks after the Roman Catholic Church was rocked by the resignation of Cardinal Keith O’Brien, as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Cardinal O’Brien admitted sexual misconduct after resigning as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh following allegations by other priests.

Other sexual abuse allegations against priests came to light in Scotland in the wake of his resignation.