Page last updated at 13:18 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Marriage advice vicar had affair

A vicar who had an affair with a woman to whom he was giving marriage guidance has been banned from the church.

Andrew Gair, former rector of St Mary's, Debden, Essex, "kissed and touched" the unidentified woman "intimately in a sexual manner".

A church tribunal in west London heard the affair blossomed in 2005.

The Bishop of Chelmsford said the church would maintain the highest standards expected by parishioners. Mr Gair was banned for seven years.

The pair shared long countryside walks but never had "penetrative sex", the tribunal was told.

Clear action

Church authorities became involved after the woman's husband, identified only as Mr X, became suspicious about Mr Gair's relationship with his wife.

Mr X also went to Mr Gair for advice about his marriage and the tribunal, which concluded last week, found the conduct of Mr Gair, who was also married, was "unbecoming and inappropriate".

A "very serious aggravating factor" was the fact Mr Gair pursued a relationship with the woman at a time when he was "purporting" to counsel her husband.

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Reverend John Gladwin, said: "The Church of England has the highest expectations of those who have the tremendous privilege and responsibility of holding office as clergy in our parishes.

"When individuals abuse that position, the church has to take clear action to show that the behaviour is unacceptable."

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