A DISGRACED Redditch vicar has been punished by the courts, suspended from church duties and faces disciplinary proceedings after admitting that he pocketed funeral fees of more than £9,500.

The Rev Peter Worrall, aged 49, who lives in Webheath, and who worked within Redditch’s Holy Trinity Parish, which includes Webheath and Tardebigge churches, pleaded guilty to theft on March 26 at Worcester Crown Court.

The offences related to statutory fees for funerals which were paid to Mr Worrall and should have been handed to the Diocesan Board of Finance but which he instead kept. He took a total of £9,534.00, over a period of four years, dating back to 2007.

His sentencing hearing took place at Hereford Crown Court on March 30, when the judge gave him a community order for 12 months and ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Following his sentencing, a statement was read by the Bishop of Dudley, David Walker, to church-goers on April 1, explaining the outcome of the court case.

One parishioner, who did not want to be named, said: “I feel the church should have been completely open about this with everyone from the start but they really haven’t, they have tried to keep it very much in-house and I think it’s a disgrace.”

Church leaders are now considering what action to take against the disgraced vicar, who is married with children.

When contacted by the Advertiser, The Rt Rev David Walker released the following statement:”The Rev Pete Worrall, vicar in the Holy Trinity Redditch team, has pleaded guilty to charges of theft at Worcester Crown Court and was given a 200 hour community order to do unpaid work to be completed in the next 12 months.

“Pete has been suspended from his duties as a parish priest and also faces disciplinary proceedings. We continue to pray for Pete and his family and for the parishioners in his parish.”

When asked if the diocese had tried to keep Rev Worrall’s theft “in-house”, as had been claimed by a parishioner, the Bishop said he make sure that he wrote to the churchwardens at each stage of the process to ensure they were kept informed, and as soon as the outcome of the trial was known he sent a statement to be read out in all of the parish churches in the team.

Mr Worrall could not be contacted for comment.