THE BISHOP of Durham has taken the unusual step of apologising to a man who claims he was abused as a child by the former Archdeacon of Auckland - even though the shamed ex-cleric was found not guilty in court.

However, 80-year-old Granville Gibson from Darlington was jailed for 12 months after being convicted of two counts of historic indecent assault involving an 18-year-old and a man in his 20s during the late 1970s and early 1980's.

But the jury found him not guilty of historic allegations involving a third person and were unable to reach a decision on a further charge.

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Now the man - who cannot be named for legal reasons - is calling for a retrial, saying he was devastated by the outcome and feels abandoned by the judicial system and the church.

Following Gibson’s imprisonment, the Bishop of Durham instigated a review into all circumstances surrounding the case while the Church of England issued a profound apology to the victims whose cases were proved in court.

But now in a letter, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Reverend Paul Butler, has now extended that apology to the man who lives in Darlington.

He said: “I believe that you were abused by Granville Gibson as you reported.

“I am deeply sorry that a clergyman behaved this way towards you, misusing his position and power and abusing his position of trust.

“I am also sorry that it has taken so long for you to feel that your story has been heard.

“Clearly the healing journey is a long one but I hope that this latest step will be a significant one along the way.”

The letter came following a meeting between the pair that saw the alleged victim pour his heart out to the bishop.

After receiving it, the emotional victim said: “I feel relieved that he does believe me and glad that I pushed for a meeting with him.

“The other victims got an apology but I never did and I needed to know that I was believed.

“It is a relief to have that apology and it means so much to me that I am believed by the church.”

The man claims Gibson preyed on him from the age of 11 when he was a vulnerable churchgoer at St Clare’s Church in Newton Aycliffe.

He said Gibson targeted him when he was alone in the church and touched him inappropriately on several occasions.

The accusations, which could not be proved in court, were reported to the police in the early 2000s and reinvestigated in 2014 when other victims came forward.

The man said the abuse had had a long-lasting impact on his life and broke down in tears as he spoke of how Gibson had “ruined” his childhood.

He claims to have been left so troubled by the abuse that he ended up in care and said it impacted upon his relationships to the point that he is still unable to be intimate with his wife.

He said: “I never told my family or friends as a child because I didn’t think they would believe me.

“I just buried my head and my parents couldn’t control me, my childhood was in care because of him.

“I haven’t been able to have a proper relationship with my wife, she thought I was gay for a long time.

“It has been awful, absolutely terrible and the court case was horrendous, taking more than two years.

“I was terrified standing up in court but it had to be done.

“I’m now struggling to move on and I think he should have got a longer sentence.

“I don’t understand why he wasn’t found guilty, I was the only one in court not to be believed and I feel terrible and sometimes suicidal.

“If I’d known he would be found not guilty, I’d never have put myself through all of this.”