Page last updated at 16:47 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 17:47 UK

Vicar who raped young boys jailed

Peter Hedge
Hedge had denied the attacks, which took place in the 1990s

A West Yorkshire vicar has been jailed for 14 years after being found guilty of raping two young boys and sexually attacking others.

The Reverend Peter Hedge, 47, from Holy Trinity Church at Queensbury, near Bradford, had denied the attacks, which happened between the 1990s and 2000.

A jury at Bradford Crown Court found him guilty of more than 30 indecent assaults as well as the rapes.

A judge said he was a "dreadful disgrace" to the church.

Hedge was also found guilty of another serious sexual assault.

'Deeply damaged'

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

The judge described Hedge's actions as "calculated and systematic abuse".

"He corrupted three of the boys with cannabis, his wickedness defied description," he said.

"You [Hedge] scarred and blighted the lives of young boys who trusted you as a pastor and friend."

Hedge was made subject to a sexual offences protection order and also put on the sex offenders register for life.

Det Sgt 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."

The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend David James, said in a statement: "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."

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