Drunken priest assaulted a police officer and a paramedic
Anglican priest Gareth Jones, above, has been suspended after he admitted assaulting a police officer and a paramedic on a drunken night out.
Jones, according to this BBC report, swore at officers and claimed he had diplomatic immunity from the Vatican when he was arrested two weeks ago.
A paramedic found him passed out in his clerical clothes, in central London.
Jones, who later said he was “deeply ashamed” about what happened, had drunk three bottles of wine, several pints of beer, gin and tonics and vodka.
Highbury Corner magistrates heard he kicked a paramedic twice in the leg before punching him and trying to bite him, on Charing Cross Road, in Covent Garden, London.
As police intervened, the priest from St Mary’s Church in Ilford, east London, kicked an officer in the face, the court was told.
When asked which embassy would grant him diplomatic immunity, the Anglican priest said “the Vatican” and swore at officers.
Jones, who has previous convictions for a bomb hoax, affray, possession of cannabis, fraud, and criminal damage, now faces formal church disciplinary proceedings.
His lawyer, Dominic Hockley, told the court that Jones had consumed about 53 units of alcohol before the incident and was seeking help to deal with alcoholism.
To say that this incident has been a wake-up call would be an understatement.
In an email to the BBC after the court hearing, Jones admitted that he was an alcoholic, which he said he was now “determined” to deal with.
I’m deeply ashamed of actions and the harm I have caused. When I was 20 I turned my life around and began a journey seeking to help people in difficulty through the ministry of the church.
It’s hard to admit you are weak and vulnerable when you are a priest, and I’ve hidden that away for too long.
District Judge Robin McPhee ordered Mr Jones, who admitted two assaults, to pay £700 in fines, £200 in compensation each to the policeman and the paramedic, as well as £85 prosecution costs and a £35 victim surcharge.
A spokesman for the diocese of Chelmsford said:
We are deeply shocked by Mr Jones’ behaviour. We suspended him from his duties as soon as we were notified of the incident. Now that the case has been concluded we have started proceedings under the terms of the Clergy Discipline Measure.
We are holding all those affected by this serious incident in our prayers.
A quick check of the St Mary’s website this morning reveals that Jones is still listed as “Parish Priest and Vicar”.
Fr Gareth has been the Parish Priest of St Mary’s since 2010. Previously he was the Assistant Priest of St Michael and All Angels, Brighton. Fr Gareth is married to Daina, a medical doctor, and they have one daughter. He trained for the priesthood at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield.
Hat tip: PPS and Ivan Bailey