Church responds after St Leonards sex offender is jailed

Michael Surman
Michael Surman

A St Leonards church has responded after one of its parishioners was jailed for sexually assaulting a young girl.

Michael Surman, 73, of Conqueror Road, was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Friday (June 21) after a five-day trial, for gross indecency and indecent assault on the girl at another address in St Leonards more than 15 years ago, said police.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said Surman will be a registered sex offender for life and in addition to his 10-year sentence will serve a further year on extended release licence.

Surman was a parishioner at St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs Catholic Church, Magdalene Road, St Leonards, according to the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton.

Following Surman’s conviction, callers to the Observer said he had a ‘prominent’ role within the church. He had previously been convicted of possessing indecent images of children, according to Sussex Police. The images were taken from the Internet and did not involve any local children.

In a statement sent to this newspaper, a spokesman for the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton said: “The Diocese of Arundel & Brighton are aware of the conviction and sentence of Mike Surman at Lewes Crown Court on Friday, June 21, 2019. Mr Surman was a parishioner at St Thomas of Canterbury and English Martyrs Catholic Church in St Leonards and the Diocese has cooperated with the statutory agencies since 2010 in managing the safeguarding arrangements within the parish for Mr Surman.

“The Arundel & Brighton Safeguarding Commission has also had oversight of Mr Surman’s case and has ensured that safeguarding procedures were followed.”

To read more about Surman’s conviction, click here.