Victim success in historic sexual abuse case against former church minister

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Joshua Hurst

Solicitor, Abuse

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A former church minister was found guilty and imprisoned in December 2022 for sexual assault on 6 boys. It was 25 years since the abuse happened and one of the victims, sadly died since; but cases like these show it’s possible to achieve justice, even for incidents that happened years ago.

Terence Atkinson, 70, is now retired, but was once a Church of England minister in Grimsby. Before this, he volunteered at various church youth groups before becoming ordained. He showed no reaction as a jury convicted him of nine out of ten charges of sexual abuse in December 2022.

The former priest was sentenced to 10 years for the historical assault on the six young victims, after being found guilty of nine out of the ten counts of indecent assault at Lincoln Crown Court. He was also given a sexual harm prevention order and placed on the sex offenders register for life – which shows that justice can be sought, even when cases are historic. 

If you’ve been abused by someone in a position of power, who was either working or volunteering in a religious organisation, such as a church, mosque or synagogue, then our specialist Abuse Claims Solicitors are here to listen and help you. Regardless of whether the case is historical or not, there is always time to seek justice.

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History of the case 

Six different victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, lived with years of trauma after Atkinson took the opportunity to influence, groom and sexually abuse the boys in multiple incidents between 1978 and 1999.

Judge Simon Hirst praised the bravery of the victims, who he said were suffering from “particularly bad consequences” of the abuse they suffered between the ages of 10 and 16. The victims challenged Atkinson’s reputation and spoke out against his supposed “good character…which allowed him to commit these offences”.

Atkinson would abuse his position of power.The Judge stated he “betrayed the trust of these young boys and abused them.” The court heard how he would invite the young boys back to his home, and then use strategic excuses to get them to do things, such as reading the electric meter, or measuring them for clothing – whilst doing so, he would take the opportunity to abuse the young boys. 

It took many years for the allegations to finally be made, as is common with similar  historic sexual abuse cases. The first allegations against Atkinson came in the 1980s and 90s, but these were denied by the minister and not investigated any further by the police.. By 2019, more victims started coming forward, and Atkinson was interviewed again.

He was later charged and put to trial. There, the Court heard many statements from some of the victims. The judge, during sentencing, highlighted the importance of them coming forward to make the allegations, adding that they “should not feel any guilt” about the time passed, and that the guilt should sit with Atkinson. 

Many victims have a sense of guilt after such time has passed since the abuse occurred – which can often prevent people from coming forward to report their crimes. The judge confirmed that it is abusers, like Atkinson, who should feel this guilt, and the victims should be commended for their bravery.

Justice after the death of a victim

Sadly, one of the victims had died since he suffered the abuse, but Atkinson was still found guilty of the charge against him. It is significant that justice was found despite the victim’s death. Not only have the victim’s experiences been validated, but Atkinson has been imprisoned and is no longer a threat to the public. The abuse and trauma that the victim faced has been acknowledged and will not be forgotten despite his death. Atkinson’s crimes have now been exposed for what they were 25 years on, demonstrating the importance of seeking justice for victims of such crimes.

Retribution for the abuser

Despite the lasting damage on the victims, their courage means the former church minister will now face 10 years in prison, must register as a sex offender for life and is disqualified from working with children again. To protect the public, Atkinson has also been given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, and will never be allowed to work with children or vulnerable people again. 

All of the offences that Atkinson was charged with were part of “Operation Redstone”, which was an investigation set up in 2015, following  a file review of the Diocese. Diocese is the term used for a district under the care of a bishop in the Christian church, and in this case, it was investigating all ‘historical claims’ of child abuse at Lincoln Cathedral school and surrounding churches. Asfor Atkinson’s sentencing, DC Melissa Ablett of Operation Redstone, said: "The actions of Terence Atkinson had a profound effect upon individuals and those closest to them. Those effects, sadly, are still being felt today. Without the strength of the people who have come forward, we would not have seen these perpetrators face justice. They have shown strength and courage and I am very grateful for that."

How Simpson Millar Can Help 

When you’ve suffered any kind of sexual or physical abuse, it can take a long time before you feel ready to talk about it. Reporting abuse can take a lot of courage, so when you're ready to talk, we're ready to listen.

Our expert abuse claims lawyers can help with historic cases of sexual and physical abuse such as cases like these. Our compassionate and approachable team members have a track record of supporting survivors on their journey to justice. Get in touch with us, by calling 0808 239 1287 for a confidential conversation about the support we can provide.


Lincolnshire Police. (2022). "Former priest sentenced for historic sexual assaults on boys." Available at:

BBC News. (23 December 2022). "Former priest sentenced for historic sexual assaults on boys." Available at:

Simpson Millar LLP. (Publication date not specified). "Religious Abuse Claims Solicitors." Available at:

The Law Pages. (2022). "Terence Harry Atkinson." Available at:

ITV News. (23 December 2022). "Former priest jailed for sexually assaulting boys." Available at:

Lincoln Diocese. (Publication date not specified). "Home - Diocese of Lincoln." Available at:

Lincolnshire Police. (23 December 2022). "Former priest sentenced for historic sexual assaults on boys." Available at:

Joshua Hurst

Solicitor, Abuse

Areas of Expertise:
Abuse Claims

Joshua works as a Solicitor in our Abuse Department, which operates under the leadership of Liam Goggin.

Joshua has been with Simpson Millar since 2019, where he started as a Paralegal in the Abuse Department, a role he stayed in for two years. His dedication and drive then led him to a position as a Trainee Solicitor, where he worked in the Industrial Disease and Military Claims Departments. His passion for representing victims of abuse made him return to the Abuse department, where he completed his training contract and began working as a Solicitor.

He takes immense pride in representing victims of abuse, deeply valuing the trust his clients place in him. Every day, he's reminded of the importance of listening attentively, acting in the clients' best interests, and guiding them through their challenging moments. Ever since he began his legal career, Joshua knew he wanted to help represent victims of abuse. It means a lot to him when clients trust him with their stories and cases. His main goal is to help his clients as much as he can, so they can start to heal and move on.

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