Priest ‘indecently assaulted woman at party,’ court told

A priest indecently assaulted a student at a party and told her to “come upstairs”, a court has heard.

Former Cardiff University chaplain and priest Paul Overend is accused of kissing the woman at a gathering at his home in 1997.

The 54-year-old denies the accusations and his trial at Newport Crown Court started on Tuesday.

The court heard the incident is alleged to have happened at some point between in 1997 at the chaplaincy in Park Place in Cardiff where he lived at the time.

The alleged victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, gave evidence in court from behind a screen to protect her identity.

She told the jury that around 20 to 30 people were at the party where she had consumed some white wine.

At one point she went into the kitchen to get a drink when Overend appeared “seconds later”. She said: “The next thing I know he was there stood in front of me. He just took hold of me.”

Overend is then accused of kissing the woman on her bare arms and across her chest before whispering in her ear: “Come upstairs, come upstairs with me my darling”.

She said the incident caused her to “absolutely freeze solid”. She said: “My whole head was saying ‘Move, just move’, but I couldn’t.”

Harry Baker, prosecuting, said the alleged victim also described feeling Overend pressing against her and that she could feel his penis against her.

She said Overend stopped when another man entered the kitchen and she then left the party and returned home.

The court heard Overend was around 30 at the time of the alleged incident and was also a priest at St Teilo’s Church in Cardiff.

The alleged victim said following the incident she did not return to the chaplaincy and “lost her faith” for around 18 years.

During his six-year tenure in Cardiff the court heard Overend dated three or four students from the university and then a member of staff who he later married.

The alleged victim said Overend’s relationships with students made her feel “uncomfortable” and that he was “flirty” and she felt he was “taking advantage of them”.

The court heard she told a housemate of the alleged incident shortly afterwards but did not report it to the police or the church. Then in 2019 she told another friend about the incident after hearing a news report of a priest accused of other offences.

Encouraged by her friend the alleged victim then reported the incident to the church in Lincoln where Overend was working at the cathedral. She then gave a statement to police and Overend was interviewed by South Wales Police officers in Lincoln where he now lives.

He denied the accusations when interviewed and told officers “it would be so out of character for him”.

Overend, of Vicars Court, Lincoln, has pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent assault.

The trial, before Judge Richard Williams, continues.

WalesOnline – Cardiff