A FORMER senior clergyman in the North-East has denied charges of historic indecency relating to two male teenagers.

George Granville Gibson, a former Archdeacon of Auckland, in County Durham, is to stand trial in the New Year on eight counts arising from complaints made by the alleged victims, over incidents said to date from the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The retired cleric, whose posts with the Church of England included heading several parishes across the region, before serving as Archdeacon of Auckland, one of the leading five posts with the Diocese of Durham, between 1993 and 2001.

More recently, he served as an acting pastor at St James the Great Church, in Darlington.

He is accused of sexually assaulting a male in his late teens on at least four occasions, in 1977 and 1978.

Further similar offences are said to have been committed on a boy aged under 16, between late 1979 and 1983.

The 79-year-old defendant, of West Crescent, Darlington, was arrested as part of a Durham Police investigation into alleged historic sexual abuse, in April 2014, and, following further inquiries, he was charged in May this year.

He made his first court appearance at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court, in mid-June, when District Judge Stephen Harmes sent the case to Durham Crown Court due to the nature of the allegations.

During the preliminary hearing at the crown court, in July, the court was told that the offences would be denied by the defendant.

Shaun Dodds, prosecuting, and defence counsel, Andrew Stubbs, agreed that all eight charges, four relating to each complainant, could be put to Mr Gibson at today’s (Thursday October 8) plea and case management hearing.

He pleaded ‘not guilty’ to each charge, seven counts of indecent assault and one of buggery.

A provisional trial date of Monday January 11, pencilled in at a previous hearing, has now been moved for counsel convenience and a start date, of Monday February 22, has now been agreed by all parties.

Mr Dodds said it was now estimated that the trial, which was originally given a five-day listing, will take three days, or possibly slightly longer.

Arrangements are to be agreed in coming weeks over how the complainants' evidence in the case will be given, either by the playing of their video interviews with police, or potentially in person.

Judge Christopher Prince adjourned the hearing and bailed Mr Gibson to return for the trial in February.