11:00am Tuesday 20th March 2012
A VICAR has been suspended after he was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an 11-year-old boy.
Rev Joe Fielder, 44, the priest-in-charge at St John’s Church in Baxenden, was arrested at the village Vicarage in Langford Street.
He has been suspended from his role at the church, which he has held for three years, while an internal church investigation is completed, diocese officials have confirmed.
Police said the alleged victim called police at 7.20am on Tuesday, February 7, to report an assault.
Officers arrested Rev Fielder at the vicarage and took him in custody for questioning over the alleged assault. Police said that after interviewing him he was released and no further action is now going to be taken.
Rev Fielder is also a governor at neighbouring St John’s CofE Primary School.
Martyn Halsall, spokesman for the Church of England in Lancashire, said: “The Bishop of Blackburn, the Right Reverend Nicholas Reade, has suspended the Rev Joe Fielder from his duties in the Parish of St John, Baxenden, following a recent alleged incident.
“All such suspicions in the Church of England are neutral acts , so that a full investigation can take place without prejudice.
“This suspension was announced to the parishioners by the Bishop of Burnley, the Right Reverend John Goddard.
“The diocese will provide continuous pastoral care for the parishioners during Mr Fielder’s absence.”
No time-frame has been given for the suspension. It came in to force when he was arrested.
A police spokesman said: “Officers were called to Langford Street to reports that an 11-year-old boy had been assaulted.
“He was arrested and questioned but we have decided to take no further action.”
At church on Sunday, parishioners said they had been ‘very surprised’ to hear of Rev Fielders suspension and that the reasons behind it were not generally known in the congregation.
Since taking over at St John’s, in Manchester Road, in 2009 Rev Fielder has led a successful £30,000 campaign for dry rot roof repairs.
Last year he was licensed by the diocese to be Deanery Mission Enabler for the Accrington Deanery, spreading the Christian message in the community.
Before moving to Baxenden Rev Fielder was based at Preston St Stephen’s Church from 2000 to 2009 and had previously worked in Cheadle, Cheshire, in his first post from 1996.
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