A senior clergyman charged with a sex attack on a child has walked free from court after the case was dropped against him.
The Rev Peter Lister, of Yoxall, Staffordshire, had faced a single allegation of indecently assaulting a boy under the age of 14 at some time between January 1979 and January 31 1983 when he was based on Tyneside .
He denied the charge and no evidence was offered against him at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday when he was due to stand trial after the prosecution accepted there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
A not-guilty verdict was recorded and Judge Guy Whitburn said Mr Lister "left the court as he entered without a stain on his character".
Mr Lister, aged 63, was a director of education with the Church of England's Newcastle Diocese at the time of the allegation, but has been director of education with the Diocese of Lichfield in the Midlands since 1995.
He had been suspended since February on full pay pending the outcome of the court proceedings.
Speaking after the hearing, with his wife the Rev Jenny Lister at his side, he said: "Obviously I am immensely relieved at the decision of the court that I am not guilty with regard to the very serious charge against me.
"I particularly want to thank my wife, colleagues and friends for the support and prayers they have given me over the past nine months."
The Diocese of Lichfield stressed the diocese took the protection of children and young people entrusted in its care very seriously and had detailed procedures in place to ensure as far as possible, children and young people are protected from harm.
"In accordance with these procedures Peter Lister was suspended in February this year when Northumbria Police first alerted us to their investigation," a statement from the diocese read.
"He remained suspended during the following three months as police continued their inquiries and the suspension has continued during these legal proceedings.
"The suspension like all suspensions in such circumstances was a neutral act. The chair of the Diocesan Board of Education will meet with Peter in the next few days to formally review the suspension.
"Needless to say the Diocese is extremely relieved that Peter has been found not guilty of this very serious charge. Throughout the past none months, we have been praying for Peter and Jenny - and for all involved in this case.
"It is important to stress that at no time during Peter's eleven years with the Diocese of Lichfield - or previously during his time with the Diocese of Newcastle - had any allegation or suspicions been raised about his behaviour towards children.
"Peter Lister has lived for the past nine months with a cloud of suspicion hanging over him. That cloud has now lifted and Peter's good name and excellent reputation have been restored and he and his family can now put all this behind him."