Legal fight won by vicar from near Tenbury

THE path has been cleared for a vicar, who claimed he was forced out of his job by a four-year hate campaign, to ‘sue God’ having won a key legal fight.

The Rev Mark Sharpe says he is “immensely relieved” after a judge ordered his case should be reheard at an employment tribunal.

The 46-year-old father-of four resigned his position as rector at Hanley Broadheath, near Tenbury, on health grounds in 2009 after claiming the tyres of his car were slashed twice, his pet dog poisoned, central heating oil stolen three times, his family sworn at and his post tampered with.

Mr Sharpe also says his internet and phone connections were cut and, because of constant prowlers, CCTV cameras were installed at the rectory.

At an earlier employment hearing, the Church of England had argued he was merely an ‘office holder’ and therefore not covered by current employment rights legislation.

But Mrs Justice Cox this week told an employment tribunal in London that Mr Sharpe’s working arrangements included all of the key elements of a contract, meaning he was essentially an employee. This now clears the way for a further hearing to investigate the issues he allegedly faced.

“This decision has come as an immense relief,” said Mr Sharpe. “I never intended to set out on this journey, but I was forced down this route in order to seek recompense.

“I feel vindicated by the stand that Unite (the union) has taken on my behalf and hope to move to a swift resolution of the outstanding issues with the church, so that I can move forward to the next chapter of my life.”

The Unite union has been negotiating a settlement for Mr Sharpe, who has been off sick with stress since April 2006.

A Church of England spokesman said: “The Employment appeal tribunal has now delivered its decision in relation to Mr Sharpe’s appeal against the decision of the employment tribunal to reject his claims on the basis that he was neither an employee nor a worker.

“In the light of the Supreme Court decision in relation to ministers in the Methodist church, the judge has decided not to uphold the original judgement.”

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