Vicar jailed for abusing boys

By Alistair Keely,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 04:43

A bishop today said a vicar had "betrayed the trust put in him" after he was jailed for 14 years for carrying out sex attacks on boys.

Peter Hedge was found guilty by a jury of a number of sex attacks and rape when he was curate of St Margaret's Church, Thornbury, West Yorkshire, and vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Queensbury, Bradford.

Hedge, 47, denied the offences spanning eight years from the early 1990s to 2000 but was convicted by a jury at Bradford Crown Court today of more than 30 indecent assaults, two rapes and another serious sexual assault.

The court heard the vicar abused his position of trust to gratify himself sexually with six boys and then paid them to keep silent

He was jailed for 14 years by a judge who also made him subject to a sexual offences protection order. He was also put on the sex offenders register for life.

After the case, The Rt Revd David James, the Bishop of Bradford, said: "I have heard, with the deepest regret and sadness, that Revd Peter Hedge has been found guilty of these serious charges.

"Clergy in the Church of England are expected to uphold the highest moral standards; by committing these very serious crimes Peter Hedge has betrayed the trust put in him by the people of Thornbury and Queensbury.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the victims who have been deeply damaged by someone who should have been nurturing them and keeping them safe. And I thank them for their courage in coming forward to give evidence

"In recent years child protection has been one of the highest priorities of Bishops and those leading the Church of England. The Diocese of Bradford now has stringent policies in place that are followed closely to ensure children involved in church life are not only kept safe but are encouraged to flourish physically, emotionally and spiritually.

"We have adopted codes of good practice which help prevent abuse and these are regularly reviewed.

"We have increased our training of church workers in the area of safeguarding children, we have employed a child safeguarding officer to expand on earlier work done by volunteers and we liaise with statutory bodies more frequently.

"The Diocese of Bradford has already employed safeguarding professionals to carry out an external review of the records of all clergy and licensed lay workers to monitor whether there are causes for concern.

"It is about 12 years since Peter Hedge groomed and then first abused those who have come forward. Two years ago, as soon as the police informed me of their suspicions - and before there were formal charges, I immediately took action, suspending Peter without prejudice, and since then we have worked closely with the police and Bradford Safeguarding Children Board to discover the truth in these matters.

"We will now be submitting this case to an independent review to see whether we can learn anything which will help us to improve our care of children still further. We shall do all we can to prevent any similar abuse from happening again."

Detective Sergeant Linda Christie from West Yorkshire Police's Child and Public Protection Unit said: "We are pleased with today's verdict and hope it brings some closure to the victims of Peter Hedge.

"He abused his position of trust as a vicar and committed horrendous acts of abuse against vulnerable boys who trusted him.

"Today's result should send out a very clear message to people who are considering committing offences against young people in their care and the consequences of doing so."