THE Bishop of Durham has apologised to the victims of a former Archdeacon who was found guilty of indecently assaulting a teenage boy while he helped paint his vicarage nearly 40 years ago.

The Right Reverend Paul Butler expressed "deep shame and regret" at the former priest's "terrible crimes".

George Granville Gibson faced three charges of indecent assault against two young men, a “vulnerable” teenager in the 1970s and a young man in the 1980s.

There were cheers from the public gallery at Teesside Crown Court when the guilty verdicts were read out today – but the 83-year-old remained expressionless in the dock.

The former Archdeacon of Auckland was sentenced to 10 months in prison after the jury unanimously found him guilty of attacking the teenage boy twice in his vicarage at St Clare’s Church, in Newton Aycliffe.

Gibson was found not guilty of the third allegation made by a young man who claimed the pensioner kissed him on the lips during a visit to London for an annual Church of England assembly meeting.

The sentence, which was reduced by two months due to time previously served, comes just three years after Gibson was convicted of sexually assaulting two other men during a trial at Durham Crown Court.

Judge Deborah Sherwin described the first complainant as “vulnerable” boy.

She said: “He was vulnerable on that day in question. You suggested he should go and carry out some paint work in the vicarage. You showed him what you wanted him to do and returned after a few minutes.

“You then proceeded to stroke his leg, up to the groin area. He said ‘what are you doing’ and left.

“He picked up his coat from the study and you followed. You put your hand under his clothing, scratched his stomach and put your hand down his trousers in the attempt to touch his genital area.

“There was the attempt to touch his genitals. He was vulnerable, it was an abuse of power.”

The court previously heard how Gibson asked the teenager to carry out some paint work in his vicarage before running his hand up his leg and attacking him for the second time in the study.

Gibson, of Wesley Court, Darlington, denied all three charges.

In a statement made following the sentencing, Bishop Butler, said: “It is a matter of deep shame and regret that a former priest in the Church of England Granville Gibson has today been found guilty and received a custodial sentence of 10 months for two further counts of indecent assault against a male person.

“There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place; abuse is a terrible crime and a grievous breach of trust, which has lifelong effects.

“We apologise unreservedly to survivors of Granville Gibson’s abuse and pay tribute to their bravery in coming forward.

“We have worked closely with the police throughout this process and we continue to urge anyone affected by this news to contact the Diocesan Safeguarding Team or their local Police force.”

Responding to allegations that the church gave the victim money to “shut his mouth”, a spokesman for the Diocese of Durham said: “During the trial, one of the witnesses confirmed that he had received payment from the Church of England.

“We can confirm that a civil claim was received by the insurers and this was settled on a full and final basis.

“We can also confirm that no confidentiality agreement was undertaken as part of the settlement.”