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The Church of England warns that vicars being investigated for sexual offences are still ministering at funeralsistock

Vicars who have been sanctioned for sexual abuse are allegedly hiring themselves out to minister at funerals as "freelance clergy", making thousands of pounds in the process.

The Church of England's General Synod in York heard how funeral directors are using the services of vicars who are no longer allowed to minister. Families of the deceased are often not aware that the priest may have been suspended due to sexual or other misconduct.

One case in Winchester involved a funeral director ignoring pleas from the police by employing a vicar who was being investigated for sexual abuse abroad.

Funeral directors are often pressured to organise a funeral quickly and finding a vicar can be time consuming.While ordained vicars cannot accept payment for an independently conducted funeral, those conducting two or three a day can earn up to £40,000 a year.

The Right Rev Paul Butler, who deals with safeguarding issues around children and vulnerable adults for the Church, said the issue would be raised with the parliamentary group for funerals and bereavements.

"I have become aware that clergy who have been refused permission to officiate due to safeguarding issues have sometimes been permitted to officiate at funerals by external commercial funeral directors," he said, according to The Times.

A spokeswoman for the National Association of Funeral Directors told the paper that directors worked under church guidelines but that "they are not always proving straightforward for funeral directors to follow".