University Chaplaincy warden accused of sexual assaults

Marc Morris. Picture: Kingdom News Agency
Marc Morris. Picture: Kingdom News Agency

THE LIVE-IN warden of St Andrews University’s Catholic Chaplaincy was thrown out of his accommodation after allegations he sexually assaulted two young women – with one attack said to have happened in the chaplaincy.

Marc Morris – who also helped run the historic Fife university’s Companions of the Order of Malta society – faces 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 the university’s Catholic chaiplancy.

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.

They first approached the local priest who referred them to the diocese safeguarding officer, who ultimately told them to call in police.

One girl 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 alleged victim 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 at the university’s Catholic chaplaincy 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 particular in a chaplaincy.”

Fiscal depute Marie Irvine asked: “What did you think he was doing?”

She said: “I don’t know. I felt uncomfortable.”

Morris (26) of St Andrews, denies two charges on summary complaint of sexual assault.

Sheriff Jillian Martin-Brown rejected a submission from defence solicitor advocate Jim Laverty that there was no case to answer.

The trial continues in January.

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