London priest reveals he wears his cassock like a 'suit of armour'

North London priest, 37, reveals

London priest reveals he wears his cassock like a 'suit of armour'

North London priest, 37, reveals he wears his full cassock like a ‘suit of armour’ outdoors to deter attackers from ‘stabbing him in the street’

  • Priest wears a cassock to deter attackers from stabbing him in the street
  • The Rev Lee Clark took over the tough inner-city parish in August last year
  • He rushed to the side of a stabbing victim outside the church last December
  • Murders in the capital have rocketed by 38 per cent since 2014, figures reveal 
The Rev Lee Clark, vicar of St Philip the Apostle in Tottenham, North London, describes the full-length clerical garment ¿ which he wears when he visits parishioners ¿ as his ¿suit of armour¿

The Rev Lee Clark, vicar of St Philip the Apostle in Tottenham, North London, describes the full-length clerical garment – which he wears when he visits parishioners – as his ‘suit of armour’

A priest in a parish blighted by knife violence has confessed he wears a cassock to deter attackers from stabbing him in the street.

The Rev Lee Clark, vicar of St Philip the Apostle in Tottenham, North London, describes the full-length clerical garment – which he wears when he visits parishioners – as his ‘suit of armour’.

The 37-year-old Church of England cleric told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Fortunately, the cassock still commands some respect and only the most violent and twisted people are going to stab a priest. 

‘If I walk onto an estate to see a parishioner dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, people think I’m there for either drugs or sex, or I’m an undercover police officer and there’s a good chance I’ll get stabbed.

‘It’s sad really, but I wear it when I’m out and about now. It’s become my suit of armour.’

Mr Lee, who took over the tough inner-city parish in August last year, said that his parents had been uneasy about his move to Tottenham with his wife and two young children because of London’s knife crime epidemic.

He added: ‘It’s horrible really but I do worry for my children growing up in this area. It’s got to the stage now that no one’s safe.’

Mr Lee, who is also a county commissioner for Greater London North East Scouts, revealed that he once met the murdered schoolgirl Jodie Chesney. The 17-year-old Explorer Scout was stabbed to death in an East London park in March

Mr Lee, who is also a county commissioner for Greater London North East Scouts, revealed that he once met the murdered schoolgirl Jodie Chesney. The 17-year-old Explorer Scout was stabbed to death in an East London park in March

According to the latest figures, 40,829 offences involving knives or sharp instruments were recorded in 2018 in England and Wales – up six per cent on the previous year.

Murders in the capital have rocketed by 38 per cent since 2014, figures, which exclude those killed by terrorism, reveal.

Mr Lee, who worked as a civil servant before becoming a priest, told how he had rushed to the side of a stabbing victim outside the church last December.

‘I realised he was Catholic so was ready to administer the last rites as he lay on the ground,’ he said.

‘Fortunately, he had only been stabbed several times in the leg and could be helped. But it’s a sad reality of being a priest in London that I have to be ready with the last rites at all times.’

Mr Lee, who appeared on last week’s Question Time to condemn the failure of politicians to get to grips with the knife-crime crisis, said he believes putting a stop to low-level crime would be a good start.

‘I look around London and I see Sadiq Khan – who seems to be more focused on what Donald Trump is saying – and a lot of other politicians squabbling over Brexit, and it’s not surprising knife crime is as bad as it is,’ he said.

‘I’m a firm believer that we need to take a stronger stance on low-level crime. If we can stop the littering and the loitering, people will start to be proud of themselves and of the area they live in.

‘That kind of attitude will help curb violent crime in this country.’

Mr Lee, who is also a county commissioner for Greater London North East Scouts, revealed that he once met the murdered schoolgirl Jodie Chesney.

Mr Lee, who took over the tough inner-city parish in August last year, said that his parents had been uneasy about his move to Tottenham with his wife and two young children because of London¿s knife crime epidemic. A stock photo of inner London is pictured above [File photo]

Mr Lee, who took over the tough inner-city parish in August last year, said that his parents had been uneasy about his move to Tottenham with his wife and two young children because of London’s knife crime epidemic. A stock photo of inner London is pictured above [File photo]

The 17-year-old Explorer Scout was stabbed to death in an East London park in March. ‘I wouldn’t want to overstate my relationship with Jodie but I did meet her and she was, by all accounts, an extraordinary young woman with everything ahead of her,’ he said.

‘Scouting is the kind of pursuit that gives skills for life. I’ve met so many incredible people who are involved with the Scouts and it’s horrifying to think a Scout could be caught up in knife crime in such a tragic way.’

The vicar, who grew up in Ilford, East London, left school at 16 with only four GCSEs and few prospects, but said he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and believes the same mentality could help young people today.

‘My teenage years were very wayward, to say the least,’ he added. ‘I always joke that I left school with hardly anything to show for myself but ended up studying at Oxford, which is where I did my priest training. If I can turn things around then anyone can.’

Of the dangers he and his family face in Tottenham, Mr Lee said: ‘My wife thinks I can be cavalier because of what this area is like, but I have a job to do and I feel I need to get out and talk to people.

‘It’s no good pointing the finger at others if I’m not willing to do everything I can to turn knife crime around.’

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