A FORMER high-ranking member of the Church of England accused of sexually assaulting two young men said he struggled to “come to terms” with his sexuality during the time of the alleged attacks.

George Granville Gibson, the former Archdeacon of Auckland, is accused of attacking a teenage boy as he carried out a painting job in the vicarage at St Clare’s Church in Newton Aycliffe during the late 1970s.

Teesside Crown Court heard the boy reported the assault shortly after the 83-year-old allegedly rubbed his hand along his leg, held him in a “bear hug” and stuffed a hand down his trousers.

A decade later he allegedly kissed a junior clergyman on the lips during a visit to London for an annual Church of England assembly meeting, the jury was told.

Gibson who was convicted of sexually assaulting two men but found not guilty of five other counts in 2016 denied the two claims.

Paul Cleasby, prosecuting, probed the pensioner over his sexuality and his efforts to “keep it a secret” from his family and the church.

Gibson responded: “I wasn’t hiding it, I was coming to terms with it and subduing it.

“The climate at that time is very different to how it is now with such matters. I wasn’t sure what was happening myself.

“There’s a difference from having sexual inclinations towards men and doing that.

"I had sexual inclinations towards women and didn’t abuse them.”

But the court heard Gibson invited the first complainant to paint a small room downstairs in the vicarage and he touched the teenage boy’s leg as he stood on the toilet seat to paint the ceiling.

Gibson said he accidentally “brushed against” the teenager because “there wasn’t much space".

He told the court: “My recollection is I showed him what to do, I gave him the paint and brush and told him to be careful standing on the toilet seat.

“I came back after a couple of minutes later and he was making a mess.

“I said that’s no good, let me show you how to do it. I stood on the toilet seat and took the brush off him to show him how it should be done. He was on the toilet seat as well, he had to move around to allow me to get up.

“The close proximity was unavoidable.

“I got the feeling he didn’t like being told what to do because he didn’t finish the job. He didn’t like me showing him how to do the paint work.”

He denied following the teenager into his study, hugging him from behind and putting a hand down his trousers, saying if he were guilty, he would have picked a more concealed room.

Gibson told the court: “He said that it happened in the study, if I was a person to do that kind of thing, I would not have done it in that room. It was small with a large window facing the drive.

“If anyone were to walk up, and it was a busy vicarage, then they would have seen.

“There were no blinds or curtains, it’s not the sort of place anyone would choose to do something of that nature.”

The second complainant accused Gibson of kissing him on the mouth while they were alone in a room during the former Archdeacon’s visit to attend the General Synod in London during the late 1980s.

The court heard the young man was left “revolted” and told Gibson to “remain celibate” after he was kissed “full on the lips”.

Gibson, of Wesley Court, Darlington, said he had “no recollection” of the alleged incident.

He said: “I just did not do that sort of thing. The only person I kissed on the lips was my wife.”

The trial continues.