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Judge apologises to pervert priest's victims over long wait for justice

Published 10/08/2016

Ex-priest Philip Temple faces sentencing for sexual assaults against children in the 1970s (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Ex-priest Philip Temple faces sentencing for sexual assaults against children in the 1970s (Metropolitan Police/PA)

A Crown Court judge said he was "sorry" justice had not come sooner after 13 young people sexually abused by a former children's home worker and Catholic priest had to wait decades to see him jailed.

Philip Temple, 66, sexually assaulted 10 boys and a girl in his care between 1971 and 1977 when he worked for Lambeth and Wandsworth borough councils.

He become a priest in 1988 and served at Christ the King Monastery, Vita Et Pax in Cockfosters, where he abused two victims including an altar boy.

Temple was tried in the late 1990s but the jury could not decide on a verdict, sparking a retrial which ended in an acquittal, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Judge Christopher Hehir - who described Temple as "a wolf in shepherd's clothing" - jailed him for 12 years extended for one year on licence on Wednesday after he admitted a total of 27 counts of non-recent sexual assault and two of perjury. He was arrested in July last year.

The former priest was described by one of his victims as an "extremely skilled liar and manipulator with sociopathic qualities", and Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said the effect on victims' lives had proved "incalculable".

Judge Christopher Hehir told the man, who said he was abused as a teenager when Temple was a priest: "I am sorry justice was not done when you came to court in 1998 and 1999."

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court he took to smoking and drinking heavily, self-harming, rarely ate and became a recluse after the trials, culminating in a suicide attempt.

He said he had seen Temple as a father figure, to the extent that he gave him a Father's Day card one year, and called for the judge to hand down the maximum sentence.

He said: "I can only imagine the damage he has caused to other victims. We can never escape what he did and we can never be free of it."

The judge told Temple it was "troubling" that complaints had not been pursued and that "there may have been opportunities to stop your offending behaviour that were missed".

The offences spanned across "two distinct phases" of Temple's life: when he worked at three care homes from 1971 to 1977, and between 1993 to 1999 after he was ordained.

Temple told several children to keep quiet about their ordeals, telling one victim it was "our little secret", and bribing at least one boy - described by a social worker as "Philip's favourite" - with sweets for his silence, the court heard.

The judge told him: "You, of course, exploited the opportunities your deceit as to your character had afforded you, not only by sexually abusing children but, as a priest, by lying on oath to deny the truthful accusations brought against you by one of your victims.

"Your actions as a priest demonstrated that in truth you were a wolf in shepherd's clothing."

Temple, wearing glasses and a green sweater, spoke to confirm his name and kept his head bowed throughout Wednesday's hearing.

He did not appear to react as he was sentenced, although one man, believed to be a victim, stormed out of the courtroom.

In mitigation, Lee Sergent said he had been asked to apologise on behalf of the former priest in the hope that "it might provide some small comfort or closure for his victims".

Temple was told he could expect to serve at least half of the term in jail but was warned he could spend the full 12 years behind bars.

A sexual harm prevention order was also made.

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From Belfast Telegraph