A VICAR has been jailed for three years after he confessed to molesting an orphaned girl.

The Rev John Yallop was supposed to have been offering the 16-year-old counselling after she had lost her mother, father and grandmother in the late 1980s, a court heard.

The offences took place in Sheffield. Yallop later went on to work at a Blackburn church and community centre due to what a judge described as a ‘cover-up’ of the earlier crimes.

His victim only had the courage to come forward and make a complaint after she learned that Yallop, 65, wanted to foster children.

Yallop and his wife Collette had caused a minor storm in August 2010 when they told the Lancashire Telegraph they would bar same-sex couples from adopting one of their foster children.

Lancashire County Council had refused to consider the couple as foster parents as it was felt they contravened their diversity policies.

Earlier in his career Yallop was parish priest in the Burngreave area of Sheffield, where he was introduced to his teenage victim.

Prosecutors said he even groped the girl at a church where he had conducted the funeral of her late mother.

He also forced her to perform a sex act on him, and exposed himself at his own home and in his car.

The girl first lodged a complaint with social services over his behaviour more than 25 years ago, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

But instead of being referred to police, Yallop, a married father-of-two, was allowed to resign and he later moved to Lancashire to work at St Barnabas Church and Community Centre in Johnston Street.

The Blackburn Diocese had no knowledge of the allegations, a spokesman said after the court case.

Yallop told the Telegraph in 2010 that he had resigned as a church minister after having an affair while married to his first wife.

Sarah Wright, prosecuting, said: “The victim feels she was never able to grieve for her family.

“She has suffered depression, had suicidal thoughts on many occasions, and it has affected her relationships with partners.

“In 2012 she saw a newspaper article where the defendant suggested he was about to foster and she felt she must make a formal complaint.”

Yallop, of Addison Street, Blackburn, had denied six charges of indecent assault but changed his pleas to guilty three days into the trial.

Police have said he also lived in Bold Street, Accrington, and St Clement Street, Blackburn, for a time.

Jailing him for three years, Judge Simon Lawler QC told Yallop: “You unmercilessly abused her for your own sexual gratification.

"Now, there would have been an immediate complaint to police and the church would have taken swift action. Then, it was swept under the carpet.

“The church were more concerned what a formal complaint would do to its reputation. It was a cover-up.”

The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, speaking after the case, apologised to the victim for the distress she suffered at the hands of Yallop in 1987.

He said: “At the time, she was just 16 years of age and both her parents had recently died.

“Vulnerable young people rightly look to the church and to its ordained representatives as people in whom they can trust and confide and with whom they will be safe.

“Sadly, this trust was terribly betrayed in this case.”

The bishop said he agreed with the judge’s comments, on the way the matter was handled by church authorities at the time, but said he was confident their processes were now ‘more robust’.

A Blackburn Diocese spokesman said: “We were not aware of the allegations against John Yallop prior to his arrival in the diocese and his appointment in a lay capacity in administrative support at St Barnabas.

“In early 2009, as a former vicar, he asked for a ‘permission to officiate’ licence but this only lasted for one year and he subsequently left to set up his own church, independent from the Church of England.

“By the time the allegations then came to light for which he has now been jailed he was no longer under the responsibility of Blackburn Diocese.”