Page last updated at 17:44 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 18:44 UK

Retired priest admits child abuse

Collin Pritchard
Collin Pritchard groomed a boy who worked at the church

A retired vicar has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys when he was at a church in Northamptonshire.

Collin Pritchard, 64, now living in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex, admitted seven sex offences, six of which were committed against one boy.

The offences took place while he was parish priest at St Andrew's Church in Wellingborough in the 1970s and 80s.

At Northampton Crown Court, Pritchard was jailed for five years. The judge said he had "betrayed his calling".

"It was the most appalling breach of trust," Judge Christopher Metcalf told him, as he passed sentence.

"You took advantage of young boys who wanted to involve themselves in your church."

Colin Pritchard was a vicar at St Andrew's Church in Wellingborough

The disgraced clergyman was prosecuted after one of his victims, now aged 39, decided to tell the police what had happened to him.

Anne Cotcher QC, prosecuting, said the father felt he could not allow his own son to attend a Church of England school such was his dislike of the institution.

The court heard another Church of England vicar, named in court as Roy Cotton, had been involved in the offences but died in 2006 two weeks before Pritchard's arrest.

Miss Cotcher said the boy did odd jobs around the church and this provided Pritchard with the opportunity to invite him back to the vicarage and take him on trips.

Grooming had started with kissing and fondling and developed to them sharing a bed together, the court heard.

Feelings of guilt

The prosecutor said Pritchard would tell the boy that they had a special relationship which others would not understand.

After finally finding the courage to tell others what had happened to him police launched an investigation and traced a second victim.

Judge Metcalf was told this victim, now 42, had been regularly sexually abused by Cotton, the court heard.

Miss Cotcher said both victims had suffered feelings of guilt and shame because of what had happened to them during their childhoods.

The Peterborough and Chichester Dioceses said in a statement: "We were dismayed to hear of the charges brought against Mr Pritchard.

"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, as part of the current review of historic reports of abuse that has been commissioned in each diocese by the House of Bishops, and carried out by independent reviewers."

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