Paedophile Priest Gets Life

The Sun [United Kingdom]
July 28, 2006,,2-2006340787,00.html

A PAEDOPHILE church minister who subjected young boys to sickening sex attacks was jailed for life today.

Simon Thomas was told by judge Jeremy Burford QC, at Southampton Crown Court, that he would serve a minimum of eight years in prison before being eligible for parole.

The 44-year-old married man with four children was also given a sex offenders prevention order banning him from communicating with children. He was also banned from working with children and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Thomas, who served as a minister with the United Reformed Church in Hythe, Hants, pleaded guilty last month to 35 charges including two offences of rape against an 11-year-old boy.

Other offences included taking indecent photos of children and indecency with sexual activity with a child, involving nine boys aged between 11 and 15.

Speaking outside court, the father of a 14-year-old boy who was sexually abused by Thomas said that he was pleased that his son's attacker would not be released until he was deemed safe.

He said: "He's a monster. There was no remorse on his face. I tried to hold his gaze as long as possible and I could see no acknowledgement that he has done anything wrong. He looked odious."

The dad said he blamed the church for failing to act on the warning given to them in 2003 about the defendant's use of the internet to contact young boys.

He said: "In Thomas' warped mind the fact that he was allowed to continue after the investigation, he would have felt that his actions had been condoned."

The mother of a 13-year-old victim welcomed the sentence. She said: "I am pleased. I think it's just and fair. Just because he's a priest doesn't give him the right to abuse the trust of children.

"The children are going to be affected for much longer than he has to serve in prison.

"I felt angry, very angry to come face to face with him."

It emerged earlier this week that Thomas committed the majority of the offences after the police and the URC received a warning of him having sexual liaisons with minors he met on day internet chat rooms.

He was questioned in 2003 but police halted the investigation without checking his computers because the tip-off was anonymous.

The court heard that Thomas would contact young boys through internet chatrooms where he would use a combination of flattery and obscenity to seduce them into meeting him.

When police examined computers seized from his home they discovered a schedule of 1,200 names of people he had met on the internet, 97 of whom were boys aged under 16.

The chart included details of the boys as well as comments about them.

The court heard that Thomas got some of his victims to expose themselves on webcams and he also showed his naked body to them over the internet.

He also arranged to meet four of the boys in town centres from where he drove to secluded spots where abused them.

He also met one boy at his home where he raped him.

The court was told that the 35 offences, which included 19 indecent images and video footage on his computer, were committed during a four-and-half-year period.

Sentencing Thomas, judge Burford said that only a life sentence was appropriate for the serious offences of rape because it was not clear when Thomas would be safe to be released back into society.

Judge Burford said: "You used the internet through those years to contact and groom boys using a mixture of flattery and obscenity.

"The same good social skills that made you a successful priest were used to harm those young boys and breach their trust."

Judge Burford said that Thomas had led a double life which had deceived not only his family but his employers and congregation at his church.

He added: "You have been convicted of serious specified sexual offences, there's no doubt there's a significant risk to young boys of serious psychological harm by you committing further offences."

Detective inspector Adrian Prangnell welcomed the sentence and said: "Rev Thomas has today been sentenced to life. This reflects the appalling nature of the crimes he committed against young and vulnerable children and the abuse of his position of trust within our community."

Rev Dr David Cornick, general secretary of the URC said: "We are horrified and appalled by Simon Thomas' betrayal of trust and abuse of power and our hearts go out to all who have been entangled in his webs of deceit and deception."

Rev Cornick said that a full investigation was carried out in 2003 when the original allegations were made and the case was referred immediately to the police.

He explained the URC held its own disciplinary hearing but because the police did not charge Thomas with any criminal offence it was found that Thomas had not committed a serious enough breach of church discipline to have his name removed from the role of ministers.

He added that Thomas was issued with a formal written warning.


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