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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Vicar jailed for child sex abuse
Rev David Smith
Smith was convicted on 12 counts of abusing children
A parish priest has been jailed for five-and-a-half years for sexually abusing six boys over a 30-year period.

The Rev David Smith, of St John's Road, Clevedon, groomed and molested his young victims during sleep-overs at the vicarage and holidays abroad.

Smith, 52, vicar of St John the Evangelist in Clevedon, North Somerset, had denied all 12 charges.

Bristol Crown Court heard concerns about the vicar had been raised with the Church of England on two occasions.

Unanimous verdict

The two-week trial heard two complainants expressed their concerns to the Church, first in 1983 and again in 2001.

They were assured that the matter had been "dealt with", but Smith continued to abuse boys in his parish.

He claimed all the offences were a "figment of someone's imagination".

The jury of eight women and four men took two hours to find him guilty of 10 charges of indecent assault, one sexual assault of a child under 13 and one of sexual activities with a child under 16.

The attacks happened between 1976 and 2005 and involved six boys under the age of 16.

Smith closed his eyes as the jury foreman read out the guilty verdicts on all the charges.

Sentencing him the judge said: "You were a father figure and a mentor to these boys. One felt largely humiliated by the experience, you added to their distress."

'Shocked and horrified'

In a statement the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Right Reverend Peter Price, said:

"The Reverend David Smith has been found guilty of a number of very serious charges. We are shocked and horrified that he has fallen so far short of the very high standards expected of priests in the Church of England," he said.

"We apologise sincerely to David Smith's victims, their families, the parish and all involved in this case. We're very sorry that these offences were committed by a man in a position of trust.

"We've taken all necessary steps to do all in our power to ensure there is no repetition of this situation."

In April in a separate case the Church of England was called "totally irresponsible" for failing to tell police about an ex-choirmaster who sexually abused children.

Peter Halliday, 61, from Farnborough, Hampshire, was jailed for 30 months after admitting sex offences from the 1980s.

But the BBC learned he had admitted the abuse 17 years ago, but left the Church quietly on condition he had no further contact with children.

The TV interview which led to Smith's arrest

Jury out in vicar child sex trial
03 May 07 |  Bristol/Somerset
Vicar denies abusing young boys
30 Apr 07 |  Bristol/Somerset
Boy was 'centre of vicar's life'
27 Apr 07 |  Bristol/Somerset
Boy 'prayed after vicar's abuse'
26 Apr 07 |  Somerset
Boy 'abused by vicar in vicarage'
25 Apr 07 |  Somerset

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