Harriet Lavin secures convictions for sexual abuse by a Church Minister in the 1980s

March 6, 2024

Harriet Lavin from Exchange Chambers has successfully prosecuted a trainee Church of England minister for indecently assaulting a girl more than 30 years ago.

Thomas De Lacey, 77, was convicted of two counts of indecent assault of a girl who was around 12 years old at the time, when she visited his house in Preston on a church matter.

The victim kept what happened to herself until 2022, when she told the Diocese of Blackburn safeguarding team.

Following a five-day trial at Preston Crown Court, the jury returned unanimous guilty verdicts in respect of the two allegations and De Lacey was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

At the time of the offending De Lacey whilst not yet a Minister, was heavily involved in the Church community. He later became a Minister and has been involved in the Free Church of England until he was notified of this investigation when he resigned.

Judge Knowles KC ordered him to be subject to notification requirements (more commonly known as signing the sex offenders’ register) and banned him from working with children for life.

The victim, attended at court for the sentence to read a moving Victim Personal Statement which concluded as follows:

“‘We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all’. May God open your eyes. Lay you in the dust of repentance, break your heart into a million pieces and show you yourself. You still – regardless of any sentence passed here – have breath in your body, and whilst you still live God’s Mercy still stands at the door of your heart and life. I would humbly before God pray that you no longer trample His Word but treasure it. To forgive you is not easy for me. To feel anger and hurt far more natural. Yet – as you will have preached – God so loved the world that He sent His son to die so that we all may be forgiven, and none are outside of that, even you. You have caused untold damage. Untold hurt and pain, and not just to me. It’s God who has led me, walked with me, carried me, taught me, forgiven me. May God have mercy on you.”