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Locals drove me out Shropshire vicar tells tribunal

South Shropshire | News | Published:

A vicar who claims he was driven out of a village church by parishioners told a tribunal his pet dog had been poisoned and his tyres had been slashed. A vicar who claims he was driven out of a village church by parishioners told a tribunal his pet dog had been poisoned and his tyres had been slashed. Reverend Mark Sharpe resigned from his post as rector of Teme Valley South, near Tenbury Wells, in September 2009. He claims he was driven from the parish by a campaign of intimidation. He is now asking an employment panel to decide whether he is entitled to bring a claim for constructive dismissal. At a pre-tribunal hearing in Birmingham yesterday, the 44-year-old compared his former village parishioners to characters from the television comedy The League Of Gentleman. It is about a remote community which is fearful of outsiders. Mr Sharpe told the panel his pet dog was poisoned, animal excrement was smeared on his car, his car tyres were slashed and home phone lines cut. Read more in today's Shropshire Star

A vicar who claims he was driven out of a village church by parishioners told a tribunal his pet dog had been poisoned and his tyres had been slashed.

Reverend Mark Sharpe resigned from his post as rector of Teme Valley South, near Tenbury Wells, in September 2009.

He claims he was driven from the parish by a campaign of intimidation. He is now asking an employment panel to decide whether he is entitled to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

At a pre-tribunal hearing in Birmingham yesterday, the 44-year-old compared his former village parishioners to characters from the television comedy The League Of Gentleman. It is about a remote community which is fearful of outsiders.

Mr Sharpe told the panel his pet dog was poisoned, animal excrement was smeared on his car, his car tyres were slashed and home phone lines cut.

In addition, he says glass was smashed on the driveway, heating oil was stolen and he was threatened on the doorstep of the rectory by a parishioner.

He said he and wife Sara were forced to install CCTV cameras at the rectory after being constantly plagued by prowlers following their move to Hanley Broadheath in Worcestershire, in 2005, with their four children. At one point he claimed he was even told off by a church official for having a beard, despite there being no rule against it and beards being worn by several of his superiors.

Mr Sharpe, who is being supported by the faith workers section of the Unite union, claims that he was effectively forced out of his parish and that the Bishop and Diocese of Worcester did nothing to protect him in the situation.

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The Diocese of Worcester had conceded in 2008 that Mr Sharpe was a worker entitled to bring a claim but they are now asking the employment judge for permission to withdraw that concession.

At the hearing yesterday, Geoffrey Tattersall, acting for the Diocese, said: "The respondent made an early concession that Sharpe was a worker; we now wish to withdraw that position."

He also warned the judge that the case was 'very arcane detailed stuff', adding: "There is no way of making a complicated case uncomplicated but we are trying to make it as uncomplicated as we can."

Yesterday Mr Sharpe told the tribunal hearing he had assumed that being an officer of the church would provide him the same rights as an employee.

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"I can't say I thought about it at first," he said. "I think I always assumed it was the same as being an employee.

"I know there was some kind of debate in the church when I joined about it but I didn't take an active role. I always thought by being ordained at York Minster that was some kind of employment contract."

Mr Sharpe, a former policeman and naval chaplain, claimed people were brought in to take his roles at the church while he was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome without discussing it with him. "I received a letter asking if I minded," he said. "But not until after I had complained that they hadn't asked me."

The hearing continues.

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