Hilary Alflatt, 87, began abusing the vulnerable woman when she came to him for help as her parish vicar in the 1990s, forcing her to take a bizarre “vow of obedience” to him
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A former vicar who repeatedly beat a naked woman with a bamboo stick during a decade of “bizarre and cruel” abuse has been spared jail after telling the judge he’s dying.
Hilary Alflatt, 87, who now lives in a care home in North Yorkshire, was found to have committed a series of assaults on the woman by a jury earlier this year, but did not face a full criminal trial as he was deemed medically unfit.
But after Hull Crown Court heard that Alflatt is suffering from advanced dementia and is in the final months of his life, Judge Sophie McKone said she had no other choice than to impose an absolute discharge.
It means that the court recognizes a crime has been committed but decides that any punishment of the defendant would be inappropriate and the case is closed.
Delivering the decision, on Tuesday, Judge McKone said that Alflatt, previously known as Malcolm, had been found guilty of the criminal offenses he would be facing a prison term “marked in years.”
She said: “However, the defendant is now 87 years old.
“He lives in a care home. He is bed-bound and has advanced dementia which is irreversible and progressive.
“He is in the final months of his life. He is physically very frail.”
The court heard that the victim had turned to Alflatt for support when he was a parish vicar in Sheffield in the 1980s.
The judge said: “He breached the trust that she and the Church has put in him in the most bizarre and cruel way.
“By his own admission he suggested that she take a vow of obedience to him and a vow of poverty.
“She had to kiss his feet when she saw him and called him master.”
The judge said: “By his own admission he asked her to walk down the street in just a raincoat to ‘control the relationship’.”
Judge McKone said that the defendant had admitted branding the woman, although the jury could not agree about a count relating to this incident.
She said: “As part of the control, I beat [the woman] on her naked back and buttocks with a bamboo cane as she lay naked on the bed to punish her if she disobeyed him.
“She would have welts that would last for weeks and it was a very painful experience for her.
“She lived in a permanent state of fear of what the defendant would do to her.”
In the 1990s, the vulnerable woman had realized what was happening to her was wrong and reported Alflatt.
But Judge McKone said she was let down by the Church again when they took “no proper action.”
Earlier this year, the Bishop of Sheffield apologized to the victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
The Rt Revd Dr Pete Wilcox said: “It is a matter of deep shame that a former priest in the Church of England, serving in this Diocese of Sheffield, has been found by a jury to have committed an offense of assault occasioning actual bodily harm in a pattern of abuse which lasted a decade.
“There are no excuses whatsoever for what took place and it is a cause of great regret to us that the matter has only now come to court.
“Clerical abuse is a grievous breach of trust, which almost always, as in this case, causes life-long harm.
“I wish to apologize unreservedly to the survivor of this abuse for what she suffered and to pay tribute to her bravery in coming forward to seek justice.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.