Former vicar jailed over sex abuse

A former vicar who admitted sexually abusing two boys over 20 years ago has been jailed for five years.

Rev Colin Pritchard, 64, admitted four indecent assaults of two underage boys and three acts of gross indecency dating back to the early 1980s, at Northampton Crown Court yesterday.

The unmarried retired vicar was in charge of St Andrew's Church, in Berrymoor Road, Wellingborough, until 1989 and it was during this period that the abuse happened.

Judge Christopher Metcalf said: "It was the most appalling breach of trust. It's clear to me from the evidence that you have betrayed your calling. You took advantage of young boys who wanted to involve themselves in your church."

Speaking after the case, a spokesman from the Diocese of Peterborough said: "We were dismayed to hear of the charges brought against Mr Pritchard. The Church of England takes child protection very seriously.

The crimes were a betrayal of the standards expected of clergy and we offer our sympathy to the victims of the crimes and their families. A full review of this case will be undertaken."

The court heard Pritchard "groomed" one of the victims, inviting him to his home and even taking him on trips away, including a stop-over in London and a camping trip in France. The child's mother, a church-goer, gave her son permission, trusting the leader of her church, the court was told.

But soon Pritchard was kissing the child when the pair were alone, inviting him into his bed and then involving him in sexual acts.

When the youngster asked the priest about telling others of their relationship, Pritchard told him: "Oh, they wouldn't understand because it's very special. They would stop us seeing each other."

Years later, when the victim was a father himself and about to enrol his son in a Church of England school, he told a member of the clergy about Pritchard and the priest was arrested.

In a victim impact statement, he said: "I hate what he did to me, how it makes me feel and the person it turns me into.

"He was a person in a position of trust who abused that position in the worst way possible. Nothing can make up for the pain I have suffered."

Pritchard's second victim was introduced to him by another member of the clergy, Anglican rector Roy Cotton, who died in September 2006.

This child was abused by both Cotton and Pritchard but prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge Cotton before his death.

However, when the victim was interviewed by police investigating the first victim's complaint there emerged an unholy alliance between Pritchard and Cotton, who knew about each other's "special" relationships with the two children.

He told police of a New Year's Eve party, when he became drunk in a house with both men and woke up naked with no recollection of how he lost his clothes. In the morning, Pritchard pushed him against a wall in the kitchen and sexually abused him.

"When your first sexual experiences are with overweight, middle-aged men who are older than you, they stay with you," said the second victim.

Pritchard, now of Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, retired from the church on health grounds in 1989.

Mitigating, Icah Peart QC said his client had allowed his affection for the boys to affect his good sense. "There can be no excuse for allowing himself to behave as he did."