Friday, October 2, 2009

'Devil in a dog collar' jailed for child sex attacks

'Devil in a dog collar' jailed for child sex attacks

By Wesley Johnson and Anisha Ahmed, Press Association

Friday, 2 October 2009

A Roman Catholic priest referred to as the "devil in a dog collar" was jailed for eight years today over a string of sex attacks on young boys.

Father David Pearce used his "undoubtable charm and guile to bamboozle these boys and put them in a state of mind control", Isleworth Crown Court heard.

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Judge Andrew McDowall jailed the 67-year-old monk after he pleaded guilty to a series of indecent assaults and sexual attacks on five young boys, four of whom were under 14, at St Benedict's School in Ealing, west London, over a period of 36 years.

The judge told Pearce: "Only the recording angel will know what was going on, what was done and what was not done.

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

But he said Pearce, who worked at the school since the 1970s, had abused the trust of the school, church, parents and of the boys themselves.

Pearce admitted 10 counts of indecent assault and one count of sexual assault on five victims between 1972 and 2008.

The court heard that one of the victims reported allegations to the police in 2004, but as he was the only complainant, no further action was taken.

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

But the court heard Pearce went on to assault another victim even after being put on a restricted ministry.

Outside court, victims told reporters they were pleased with the sentence.

"Devil in a dog collar sums him up," one said.

Pearce, of Ealing Abbey, Charlbury Grove, Ealing, showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

The judge said it was difficult to know what was going through offenders' minds in child abuse cases, such as the one involving the nursery nurse at Bristol Crown Court earlier this week.

But he acknowledged that Pearce's offending was not at the more serious end of the scale.

Earlier, Ed Lucas, prosecuting, told the court that Pearce continued abusing boys even after he was put on administrative duties by the church in 2004.

"He couldn't help himself," Mr Lucas said.

"He continued, it appears, in the complete ignorance of the church authorities meant to be supervising him."

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

He "used his charm, intelligence and position of power" as he became a trusted family friend before touching the boys on and around their genitals in a "flagrant and obvious abuse of trust", he said.

Mr Lucas said Pearce conducted a "campaign of underhand, secret and rather seedy sexual abuse of these boys over a 30-year period".

The priest and housemaster made himself such an integral part of the children's lives that "in some sense they had no chance but to trust him because he was in control of them", Mr Lucas said.

One victim described a "culture of sexual sadism in the company of this defendant".

He also encouraged secrecy, telling the boys to "be honest with me but be secret towards your parents" as he cut them off from everyone else.

Another said he played "weird mind games".

The court heard that Pearce had "favourites" whom he would invite to "special" lessons, and even became "infatuated" with one of them.

He also followed one of the boys to university, arranging meetings with him for which he gave him £150 a term.

"He simply could not stop himself," Mr Lucas said.

He added that the boy "felt sexually humiliated by this defendant" and any "trust he felt was blown away".

In mitigation, Trevor Parry-Jones, defending Pearce, apologised on his client's behalf and said he was beginning to understand "the enormity of what occurred and the consequences".

He said Pearce was a "highly regarded" priest who was "in effect blinded to reality".

He added that his client had pleaded guilty, but admitted this was only on what was supposed to be the first day of his trial in August.

Mr Parry-Jones said: "His life has come to an end. His beliefs have ended. He has let so many people down and it will weigh heavily upon him."

One of the victims blamed the church. The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "The church is a powerful organisation. They look after their own.

"A very dangerous man has been put away from children for a further eight years. His mind games were worse than his abuse.

"I won't think about him any more."

Det Sgt Gareth Morgan, the investigating officer from the child abuse investigations team at Northwood, said: "I am very happy with the sentence. The defendant was a charming man who abused his position of trust.

"He had no insight into the profound damage he had caused to his victims and their families, showed no remorse and denied the allegations during the investigation."

George Matlaszek, a father whose two sons attended school under Pearce, did not believe his children when they claimed that the priest watched boys dressing in the changing rooms.

After the sentencing he said: "I am angry with myself for not believing my boys. I will apologise to them."

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.

"I would like to apologise in every way I can to the victims and to everyone else who has been affected by this case.

"I will remember in my prayers all those whose lives have been troubled by David Pearce's actions."

The Abbot said he was launching an independent review into the case "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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