What happened after a bishop told kids Santa doesn’t exist

Christopher Smith dropped plans to stand trial over the allegations after being told he was innocent of any wrongdoing

What happened after a bishop told kids Santa doesn’t exist

A senior Catholic bishop has been allowed to keep his position despite claims he told boys that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

Christopher Smith was cleared in May after bishops convened an extraordinary synod.

But the 77-year-old is still facing a criminal trial over claims he made inappropriate remarks about children and told them to talk to a chaplain over the church’s Christmas celebrations.

He claimed he was set upon when he fell ill with a stroke and abandoned the case.

The former diocesan vicar-general of Southwark is alleged to have been in possession of detailed records of confessions given by children, detailing alleged sexual abuse, when he first became bishop of Southwark in 1991.

His office said the bishop has been told he is innocent of any wrongdoing but cannot agree a plea bargain with prosecutors because he would “cannot agree to something that involves a lie”.

The application for a plea bargain with the Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been made in early June.

Smith faced attempted rape and indecent assault allegations – one of which was officially registered against him with Southwark county court between 1997 and 1999 – and after being presented with new charges in May the prosecutor asked for the case to be adjourned.

A spokesman for the CPS confirmed the “vulnerable” 86-year-old was given bail with conditions, which required him to continue treatment for depression.

“An application for a plea bargain has been made with a Catholic bishop who denies any guilt,” the spokesman said.

“We are working with the bishop and prosecutors on options to enter into a plea bargain. A decision will be made later. He has been bailed with conditions, which required him to continue treatment for depression. The matter is being addressed through the legal process.”

In May, the diocese of Southwark announced that a diocesan synod had been convened to discuss his future.

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