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School sex assault priest jailed

2 October 09 16:32 GMT

The former head of an independent Catholic school in west London has been jailed for eight years for indecently assaulting five young boys.

Father David Pearce, ex-head of St Benedict's School in Ealing, carried out the attacks between 1972 and 2007.

He admitted 10 indecent assaults and one sexual assault on five boys, four of whom were aged under 16 at the time.

Isleworth Crown Court was told that Pearce used his "charm and guile" to "control" the boys.

Pearce was head of St Benedict's, for pupils aged four to 18, until he retired in 1993.

Ed Lucas, prosecuting, told the court that Pearce used his "undoubtable charm and guile to bamboozle these boys and put them in a state of mind control".

The court heard that one of his victims reported allegations to the police in 2004 but no further action was taken.

The victim pursued a successful civil action and the Abbot of Ealing banned Pearce from having contact with children "to protect Father David from unfounded allegations".

Pearce subsequently assaulted another boy, the court heard, and he was arrested in February 2008.

Sentencing, Judge Andrew McDowall told Pearce: "Only the recording angel will know what was going on, what was done and what was not done."

He added: "At some later stage, a higher court than this will be deciding the exact balance to be put upon your conduct."

Outside court Det Sgt Gareth Morgan said: "David Pearce was respected in his community and in a position of trust. He completely abused this trust."

He added: "The abuse of young children is unacceptable, the impact cannot be underestimated.

"People such as Pearce appear to have no regard for the destruction of innocence and damage they are causing and care only for their gratification."

'Most vulnerable'

In a statement issued by Ealing Abbey, Abbot Martin Shipperlee said: "The crimes perpetrated by David Pearce were a betrayal of the trust placed in him as a teacher and priest.

"His exploitation of the most vulnerable was brought to an end by the courage of those of his victims who came forward and revealed what had been happening."

The Abbot said an independent review will be undertaken "to examine what there is to be learned to ensure that there can never be a recurrence of this situation".

He added: "David Pearce's future as a priest will now be reviewed by my superiors in accordance with the child protection procedures of the church."

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