A senior church minister in Moray has succeeded in a legal bid to have his sexual assault conviction quashed.
Reverend Alastair Gray, 66, was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in October 2018 by attempting to kiss her while placing his hands on her hip and stomach.
Elgin Sheriff Court heard that on the day of the assault in October 2018, he also grabbed the woman’s arm and pushed her, causing her to fall down a flight of stairs.
Gray was acquitted of another sexual assault charge but was given 150 hours community service for the remaining allegation and physical assault charge.
However, appeal judges quashed his conviction for the sexual assault following a virtual hearing yesterday at the Sheriff Appeal Court.
Sheriff Principals Mhairi Stephen QC, Aisha Anwar and Sheriff Norman McFadyen found there wasn’t sufficient evidence available in the case to have allowed their colleague Sheriff Olga Pasportnikov to convict Gray.
Giving the court’s judgement Sheriff McFadyen ruled Gray’s physical assault conviction remained.
He also said that Gray would now have to perform 85 hours community service.
He added : “We shall quash the conviction.”
The minister, of Keith, held senior posts as clerk of Moray Presbytery and once served as a religious representative on Moray Council’s children and young people’s committee.
He had been minister at Keith North since September 2015 after leaving Bower, Watten and Halkirk in Caithness, where he was also a member of Wick Choral Society.
Before his suspension, he had also been fulfilling the role of interim moderator at the St Rufus, Botriphnie and Grant Church in Keith as it did not have its own minister.
Yesterday, defence solicitor advocate John Keenan told the appeal sheriffs that the evidence available in the case wasn’t sufficient to allow a conviction on the sexual assault charge.
The sheriffs agreed. As well as quashing his sentence, they also ordered that Gray’s name be removed from the Sex Offender’s Register. A requirement that he be subjected to 12 months supervision was also removed.
The minister will now have to perform the 85 hours community service within three months.
A Church of Scotland spokesman said: “Mr Gray had already been suspended pending the outcome of the court case.
“Now that this has been concluded the Church will resume its own disciplinary procedures.”