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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August, 2003, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Sex charge minister cleared
A kirk minister accused of sexually assaulting a 60-year-old former Sunday school teacher has been cleared of all charges by an internal church court.

The Church of Scotland's Presbyterial Commission ruled that none of the allegations against Rev Neil Campbell had been "established".

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed that Rev Campbell, 42, interfered with her five times between July and November 2001.

Mr Campbell, who is married with three children, was suspended as minister of Penninghame St John's Parish Church, Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway, when the claims were made 12 months ago.

At the kirk hearing in June, the woman alleged that the minister started sexually abusing her after counselling her over a child she gave up for adoption before she was married.

Denied allegations

Her doctor claimed that one incident had left her with internal bleeding and that she became seriously depressed.

But Mr Campbell denied all the allegations, saying the woman made passes at him which he resisted.

He accused her of putting her hand inside his trousers and said she gave him a Viagra keyring for his birthday.

The married father-of-three showed no emotion as the committee delivered its verdict.

He refused to comment as he left the hearing in Edinburgh on Wednesday.

His accuser, who was not present at the ruling, can lodge an appeal against the decision.

No criminal charges have been brought in respect of the allegations.

The Church of Scotland has a statutory jurisdiction going back to 1592 which extends over the whole range of church affairs, including discipline.

So long as matters are within the jurisdiction of the church courts, the civil courts cannot interfere.

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