The live-in warden of St Andrews University’s Catholic Chaplaincy was today cleared of sexually assaulting two young women – one said to have been attacked in a chapel.
Marc Morris – who also helped run the historic Fife university’s Companions of the Order of Malta society – faced two charges over alleged groping offences against students at the university in February 2017.
A trial at Dundee Sheriff Court heard one girl allege Morris had groped her following a Saturday evening compline – prayer – service at town’s St Leonard’s Chapel.
A second girl claimed Morris had carried out a near identical offence on her at a party a few weeks earlier.
The trial was told that they only came forward after Morris was installed as warden of the Catholic chaplaincy at the university and moved in to the property in September 2017.
A sheriff ruled both women were “credible” witnesses – but she couldn’t rely on their evidence as to whether the alleged touching was sexual or not.
They first approached the local priest who referred them to the diocese safeguarding officer, who ultimately told them to call in police.
One said the priest had told her: “It was a crime and that he would do it again to other girls unless we stopped it.”
She added: “I knew him to be Catholic and have good Catholic beliefs. I thought he would have better morals than that.
“I didn’t want him near any more vulnerable girls that he could touch and think he could get away with it.”
The court heard that the first alleged offence took place on February 9 2017 at Morris’s student flat in St Andrews.
The woman told she had been invited to Morris’s birthday party and attended that evening with friends.
She said: “We were standing in a group – he was at the side of me.
“He put his hand on my shoulder then moved it down slowly and surely.
“He was speaking to people opposite me – he didn’t speak to me at all when he was doing this.
“He never took his eyes off the rest of the group.
“He pulled his arm down my back towards my bottom, he wasn’t moving quickly.
“It was slow and definitely deliberate and he was doing it with quite a lot of pressure.
“It was like he wanted to touch all of the way and the pressure got more intense and he was pushing down to my bra strap then down.
“He got down to my bottom then down to my legs and then back up to my bottom.
“I don’t want to say he was exploring but it was deliberate pressure and he held his hand there.
“I thought it was a sexualised motive and also a power play.”
The second woman said she had attended a night time prayer service – compline – and was standing speaking to a group inside the building afterwards when Morris allegedly touched her.
She said: “His hand was on my back and then it went further down.
“It certainly stayed there longer than it should have.
“It wasn’t a normal, friendly thing to do.
“It moved slowly down my back, it felt very inappropriate, particularly in a chaplaincy.”
Morris, 26, of St Andrews, Fife, denied two charges on summary complaint of sexual assault.
Fiscal depute Marie Irvine asked the sheriff to convict him of the charges.
She said: “One of the girls said she couldn’t believe the arrogance to have done what he did.
“The Crown case is that they were credible and reliable and their evidence should be preferred to that of Mr Morris.”
But defence solicitor advocate Jim Laverty argued: “Your ladyship should hold there is a reasonable doubt in this case.”
Sheriff Jillian Martin-Brown found Morris not guilty of both charges.