Former vicar who repeatedly beat naked woman with cane given absolute discharge

A former vicar who repeatedly beat a woman with a bamboo stick during a decade of “bizarre and cruel” abuse has been given an absolute discharge by a judge who said the Church let down the victim.

Hilary Alflatt, 87, is suffering from advanced dementia and is in the final months of his life, Hull Crown Court (pictured) heard, and Judge Sophie McKone said she had no other choice than to impose the absolute discharge.

Aflatt, who now lives in a care home in North Yorkshire, was found to have committed a series of assaults on the woman by a jury earlier this year but did not face a full criminal trial as he was deemed unfit by doctors.

On Tuesday, Judge McKone said that had Alflatt, previously known as Malcolm, been found guilty of the criminal offences he would be facing a prison term “marked in years”.

She said: “However, the defendant is now 87 years of age.

“He lives in a care home. He is bed-bound and has advanced dementia which is irreversible and progressive.

“He is in the final months of his life. He is physically very frail.”

The judge described how the vulnerable woman turned to Alflatt for support when he was a parish vicar in Sheffield in the 1980s after her husband left her, taking the family’s cash.

The judge said: “He breached the trust that she and the Church has put in him in the most bizarre and cruel way.

“By his own admission he suggested that she take a vow of obedience to him and a vow of poverty.

“She had to kiss his feet when she saw him and called him master.”

The judge said: “By his own admission he asked her to walk down the street in just a raincoat to ‘control the relationship’.”

Judge McKone said that the defendant admitted branding the woman, although the jury could not agree about a count relating to this incident.

She said: “As part of the control, he beat [the woman] on her naked back and buttocks with a bamboo cane as she lay naked on the bed to punish her if she disobeyed him.

“She would have welts that would last for weeks and it was a very painful experience for her.

“She lived in a permanent state of fear of what the defendant would do to her.”

The judge said that when, in the 1990s, the woman finally realised what was happening to her was wrong and reported Alflatt: “She approached senior members of the Church and again was let down by them in her faith in that the Church really took no proper action.”

Earlier this year, the Bishop of Sheffield apologised to the victim, who cannot be identified.

The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox said: “It is a matter of deep shame that a former priest in the Church of England, serving in this Diocese of Sheffield, has been found by a jury to have committed an offence of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in a pattern of abuse which lasted a decade.

“There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and it is a cause of great regret to us that the matter has only now come to court.

“Clerical abuse is a grievous breach of trust, which almost always, as in this case, causes life-long harm.

“I wish to apologise unreservedly to the survivor of this abuse for what she suffered and to pay tribute to her bravery in coming forward to seek justice.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dave Higgens / PA.