Accused priest admits being ‘touchy feely’

The priest accused of sexually assaulting young boys and girls in children’s homes has given evidence for the first time.

Church of England priest Gordon Trevor Rideout admitted being “touchy feely” to children in the care homes he visited in the 1960 and 1970s. But he denies indecently assaulting 16 boys and girls as young as five-years-old in children’s care homes in West Sussex, Essex and Hampshire between 1961 and 1973.

The 74-year-old pleaded not guilty to 37 sexual offences, including attempted rape, as he gave evidence at Lewes Crown Court on May 8. Rideout, of Filching Close, Polegate, was asked if he was a “touchy feely kind of person” by defence QC Frances Oldham.

He replied yes, adding, “If a child was miserable or upset I would hug or kiss them, perhaps more so when they were a little, not big children. By little I mean five, six and seven-years-old. I would hug them by putting my arm around them as you would do a child if they had fallen over or were miserable.”

He said he would also kiss them on the top of the head.

The court also heard how he allegedly abused one girl at his former West Sussex home under the premise he was checking to see if she was pregnant.

Miss Oldham said, “She [the witness] said you met her at the door naked, but for a dressing gown. Have you ever answered the door dressed in this manner? She says you attempted to rape her.”

Rideout denied both accusations. Rideout told the court, “I visited the boys’ dormitories to try and get them interested in reading books. I tried to share the books I’d known as a child, like adventure books.”

Under cross-examination the former army chaplain was repeatedly asked if he had abused the children. Each time the married father answered no. Of the alleged indecent assaults, 32 were allegedly committed at a now closed children home in West Sussex. The trial continues.