A Catholic priest has been cleared of two counts of fraud.

Father David Clark, formerly the parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Church, in Colchester Road, was accused of misappropriating funds during his time in charge between 2010 and 2014.

But he was cleared by a jury of both counts when he appeared at Basildon Crown Court this week following a three-day trial.

The American priest belongs to the Archdiocese of Portland, in Oregon, but has been serving in parishes in the UK while carrying out research at Cambridge University.

He was accused of taking more than £12,000 from the Diocese of Brentwood during his time at St Francis of Assisi Church.

Clark denied defrauding the diocese out of £8,069 relating to a lease vehicle he no longer had use of.

He also denied claiming £3,866 from church donations in the form of a stipend that he was not entitled to.

He was cleared on Wednesday.

Father Clark left Halstead in 2014 and moved on to serve at St Aidan’s Church in Northampton, where he now lives.

The bishop of the Diocese of Northampton, Peter Doyle, suspended him from duty when the allegations were made.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Northampton said: "Prior to charges being made against him, it had been agreed that Father Clark, a priest of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon in the United States, would complete his term of office as priest in charge of St. Aidan’s, Northampton on April 30 and then return to his home Archdiocese."

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon said: “Father Clark is currently on leave from the Archdiocese of Portland.

“That is all the comment we have at this time.”

Attempts were made to contact the Diocese of Brentwood and Father Clark by the Gazette for a comment.