THE conviction of Granville Gibson brought a sour end to a previous apparently glittering church career.

As Archdeacon of Auckland, he earned the title, The Venerable George Gibson, but at the age of 80 the erstwhile highly-respected cleric is now facing a potential prison sentence, almost four decades after committing the abuse for which he is now convicted.

He was found guilty of two counts of indecent assault, following 10-2 majority jury verdicts on the ninth day of his trial at Durham Crown Court.

The jury returned ‘not guilty’ verdicts on three other counts of indecent assault, plus one further serious sexual offence.

A formal not guilty verdict was recorded by Judge Christopher Prince after the prosecution offered no evidence on another count of indecent assault, on which the jury failed to reach agreement.

All seven charges were denied by the defendant.

Judge Prince adjourned passing sentence to await a Court of Appeal ruling in another similar case, which is expected in October, as that judgement may have a bearing on the sentence which is ultimately imposed on Gibson.

Bailing Gibson, the judge told him: “When you return to court, all sentencing options, including custody, will be open to the court.”

His name will now be entered on to the Sex Offenders’ Register, the length of which will be agreed at the sentencing hearing.

The convictions arose as a result of incidents dating between 34 and 39 years ago, when Gibson was vicar at St Clare’s Church in Newton Aycliffe.

Born in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, Gibson spent ten years working in mining engineering, before becoming a trainer of youth leaders for the Boys’ Brigade movement, of which he had been a member himself since childhood.

He turned to the cloth as a “mature student” in 1969, training for the clergy at theological college in Oxford, and, after ordination in 1971, taking up his first Church post as assistant curate at Cullercoats, North Tyneside, before becoming Team Vicar in Cramlington, Northumberland, in 1973.

Gibson agreed to transfer from the Newcastle to Durham dioceses in 1977, when he took up the post at St Clare’s and later served as Rector of Sunderland Minster and Rural Dean of Wearmouth.

His elevation to become Archdeacon of Auckland, overseeing deaneries of Stanhope, Auckland, Barnard Castle, Darlington and Stockton, between 1993 and retirement in 2001, also saw him being appointed to sit on the Church ‘parliament’, the General Synod.

Among many other roles, he has acted as a Church Commissioner, a trustee for the Church Urban Fund, and served as a school governor.

He was also briefly brought out of retirement to act as interim priest at St James the Great Church, in Darlington, following the departure of the previous priest and some of the congregation, in 2012.

But his previous unsullied reputation was brought into question following his arrest at his former home in West Crescent, Darlington, in April 2014, which resulted in the ultimate fateful charges being brought the following month.

Speaking after the verdicts were passed, the police officer who led the investigation, Detective Constable Scott Denham, of the Durham force’s safeguarding unit, said he hoped the outcome would offer reassurance to all victims of sexual abuse.

“I hope this gives victims of all sexual abuse increased confidence that if they come forward and report what happened, they will be believed and treated sympathetically," he said.

“No matter how long ago the abuse took place we will carry out inquiries professionally, impartially and thoroughly, with a view to seeking out all available evidence.

“We will also signpost the victims to any appropriate support and counselling they may need.”

Det Con Denham said Gibson’s denials from arrest to conviction meant the victims and a further complainant had to give evidence and undergo cross-examination, during the trial conducted over the past two weeks.

Gibson will be sentenced at a date to be agreed, following the Court of Appeal ruling in the other potentially relevant case, in October.