Child abuse priest jailed for 21 years

Friday 22 October 2010 14:30 BST

A paedophile former priest who fled to the United States in 1985 was today jailed for 21 years for campaign of sexual abuse against young boys which began in the 1950s.

A jury at Birmingham Crown Court deliberated for around six hours before unanimously convicting 73-year-old James Robinson, who was extradited from California last year to face trial.

The former Roman Catholic priest, who worked in the Black Country, Staffordshire, Birmingham and Coventry after being ordained in 1971, simply stared at the jury foreman as he was found guilty of 21 sexual offences.

Robinson, who was brought up in Brownhills, near Walsall, had denied all the offences, which were committed between 1959 and 1983.

Passing sentence, Judge Patrick Thomas QC, described the defendant as devious and manipulative.

He told Robinson: "The offences you committed were unimaginably wicked and caused immense and long-lasting - we can only hope not permanent - damage to the six victims.

"You used, you abused your position of trust, your position of authority and total trust within the communities that you moved to and from."

Robinson, the judge said, had also abused his personal charisma to pick out vulnerable boys.

Judge Thomas told the disgraced priest: "You enjoyed, I have no doubt at all, selecting your victims, choosing vulnerable children.

"You enjoyed doing your best to habituate them, to groom them into accepting what you did to them.

"You were and are sufficiently devious, manipulative and bold to have got away with a highly risky sequence of sexual encounters over a period of 25 years."

The judge was also critical of Robinson for refusing to return to the UK to face his accusers and stand trial for the "persistent and outrageous" offences.

"You fled the country and hid yourself away, hoping and believing that you were beyond the reach of the law," he told the ex-priest. "Fortunately, the law does not forget, your victims would not forget and you have been brought to justice."

The court heard that Robinson was paid up to £800 a month by the Archdiocese of Birmingham until December 2001, despite officials being aware of the allegations against him.

Robinson claimed in court that he had been unable to afford to return to Britain, although it was established that in February 2000 he was sent a cheque for £8,400 by the archdiocese.

Describing the Catholic Church's role in Robinson's case as highly questionable, Judge Thomas said: "It is not for me to judge.

"Others may take the view that a full investigation and full disclosure of the results of that investigation is due to the members of that church and (Robinson's victims)."

Robinson's trial heard that he abused his victims, who are now in their 40s, 50s and 60s, after turning his back on a professional boxing career in his early 20s to train for the priesthood.

The former colliery blacksmith, whose full name is Richard John James Robinson, moved from parish to parish sexually abusing children, including two altar boys.

Jurors were told that the paedophile used his status as a priest to gain "unfettered and unlimited" access to boys, giving them gifts and taking them on trips in his sports car.

Unusually, Robinson did not face charges relating to two of his six victims because they contacted the police after he was extradited.

Although extradition law prevented Robinson from being charged with abusing the two victims, they were allowed to give evidence in support of the other four.

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