Church of England hit by flurry of historic sexual abuse cases as former priests are convicted and jailed


A former Anglican priest has been convicted of sexual offences against two boys, another has been jailed for abusing foursiblings and a third has denied offences against a young girl, as the Church of England faced a flurry of historical abuse cases.

In East Sussex, Jonathan Graves, 60, of Eastbourne, was convicted at Hove Crown Court yesterday of abusing two boys while serving as a priest.

After a nine day trial, Graves was convicted of 12 sexual offences against two boys known to him, while he was priest at St Lukes Church at Stonecross near Eastbourne, in the Diocese of Chichester.

According to Sussex police, the conviction related to two offences of indecent assault on a boy aged 11 to 13 between 1987 and 1990; two offences of indecency with that boy during the same period; two offences of cruelty against that boy over the same period; and three offences of indecent assault, and three of cruelty against another boy then aged between 12 and 15 between 1988 and 1992.

Graves is currently on police bail and will be sentenced at Brighton Crown Court on Monday.

Detective Inspector Jon Gross of the Sussex Police Public Protection Command said: 'The past has caught up with Jonathan Graves. The evidence in this case has revealed how he used his position as a Reverend to select his victims and befriend them before callously abusing them for his own sexual gratification. His crimes have had a lasting impact upon those he abused. The hurt caused by the sexual abuse itself has undoubtedly been compounded by the psychological scars of the abuser being a trusted, and influential figure in each of the victims' lives.

He added: 'I have enormous admiration for the courage the victims have shown in coming forward to the police, and for remaining steadfast in seeing this matter through to conclusion. I hope these verdicts bring some form of closure to them.'

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss looked into the case of Graves in 2010 as part of a review for the Diocese of Chichester investigating concerns about several priests, with the report sent to Sussex Police in 2011.

Following a review of all information held by the Diocese on the cases covered, the force began an investigation, Operation Perry, and Graves is the third and last of the priests to be convicted.

The two other clergy, Robert Coles and Gordon Rideout, were convicted in separate trials and sentenced to prison terms.

Sussex police stressed that the Diocese of Chichester 'co-operated fully with the police throughout' Operation Perry, and the Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser was a member of the Operation Perry Investigative Management Group.

Separately, a man who repeatedly sexually abused four siblings 40 years ago and later became a vicar has been jailed.

Robert Peters, 62, was sent to prison for two years after indecently assaulted two girls and two boys when he was aged between 14 and 21 while babysitting or visiting their home, the BBC reported.

His victims told Liverpool Crown Court that they were angered and sickened when, years later, he even officiated at their father's funeral.

Knowledge of the offences, which began in the 1960s in Wirral, emerged after one of the male victims had an emotional breakdown while other sex abuse cases, including that of Jimmy Savile, featured in the media.

Peters, who has now resigned as vicar of St Michael's in Newton, claimed what happened had been down merely to 'youthful curiosity'.

But the Judge, Alan Conrad QC, said the offences 'spanned a considerable period of time and represented a course of conduct' and did not accept they involved 'youthful experimentation'.

Peters pleaded guilty to 12 offences of indecent assault.

The siblings, who were aged between eight and 14 when the abuse took place, read statements detailing the impact it has had on their lives.

'When he turned up to take the service at my dad's funeral I felt sick,' one of them said.

Peters, who was a minister at other churches in the Chester diocese as well as Throop parish in Bournemouth, was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

And elsewhere, a former Church of England priest from Shropshire has denied sex offences against a young girl almost 40 years ago.

Brian Macduff, 78, faces four charges of indecent assault on a girl aged between 10 and 11, the BBC reported.

When the crimes were allegedly committed in Warnham, West Sussex, between 1978 and 1980, his surname was Spence.

Macduff was formerly charged at Crawley Magistrates' Court, where he pleaded not guilty.

A pre-trial hearing will be held at Lewes Crown Court on 11 October.