Leeds boy-rape vicar is jailed for 14 years

A disgraced Leeds vicar is today starting a 14-year jail sentence for raping two boys and a string of other sex offences.

Peter Hedge, 47, of Pudsey, carried out the "calculated and sytematic" abuse as a curate at St Margaret's Church in Thornbury, Bradford, and later vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Queensbury.

Judge Peter Benson told Hedge he had brought disgrace on the church. "As a result of your conduct, which really defies description in its wickedness, you not only robbed these young men of their childhood, you scarred their young lives."

He said Hedge had abused the trust in placed in him in the most cynical and corrupt fashion and his offending had undermined the respect for other decent and respectable members of the Anglican church.

Judge Benson rapped Hedge's "sickening hypocrisy" in boasting to the court about helping push through a child protection code at the heritage railway where he worked while at the same time carrying on is abuse.

At the trial at Bradford Crown Court the jury heard evidence that Hedge gave youngsters cash to buy cannabis and later gave them money to secure their silence.

In 1997 one of the boys reported Hedge's assault on him to police. He was questioned but never charged.

Hedge, of Chatsworth Road, was suspended from his post at the church when the allegations came to light two years ago.

Hedge, who was ordained in 1993, had faced three charges of rape and 33 of indecent assault against six boys during the 1990s. He stood emotionless in the dock as the jury returned a series of unanimous guilty verdicts.

Hedge had denied all the charges claiming that the victims were motivated by a possible "big money" compensation claim. He claimed that the incident in 1997 had been "an eye-opener" and he had never been alone with a child since then.

In a statement The Right Reverend David James, the Bishop of Bradford, said he had heard about the guilty verdicts with the deepest regret and sadness.

"Clergy of 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.

"The Diocese of Bradford now has stringent policies in place. 'We have adopted codes of good practice which help prevent abuse and these are regularly reviewed."

Hedge was sentenced to seven years each for the two rapes with concurrent prison terms for the remaining sex assault charges.

He will be subject to a indefinite sexual offences prevention order following his release from prison and he has also banned for life from working with children.

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