A CLERGYMAN who repeatedly sexually abused four children has been yesterday jailed for two years.
Robert Peters, who has now resigned as vicar of St Michael’s Church in Newton, Chester, indecently assaulted two girls and two boys, who were younger than him, when he was aged between 14 and 20 or 21.
The offences took place prior to Peters entering the ministry.
One of his victims, now a grown man, choked back tears as he told Liverpool Crown Court of the impact the abuse has had on his life.
Two of the other victims also read moving statements.
They spoke of their anger at Peters’ arrogance over him officiating at their father’s funeral.
“When he turned up to take the service at my dad’s funeral I felt sick,” said one.
Sentencing Peters, 62, Judge Alan Conrad, QC said yesterday: “These offences spanned a considerable period of time and represented a course of conduct.”
He said he did not accept the offences involved “youthful experimentation” and they had occurred while Peters was babysitting or later while visiting their home when on vacation from university.
“This case is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified,” said Judge Conrad, who added he had reduced the sentence that would otherwise have been imposed because of the “powerful mitigation.
“At the age of 62 your life is in ruins,” he said.
“You have no previous convictions and for the past 40 years you have followed your calling within the Church, doing good works for the benefit of others.”
The court heard that the offences – which began in the 1960s on the Wirral – only came to light after the man who became upset while reading his statement to the judge, had an emotional breakdown while the Jimmy Savile and other high profile sex abuse cases were in the media.
He tracked down Peters’ whereabouts via the Church of England website and discussed what had happened with his family, said Ben Jones, prosecuting.
When interviewed in January the defendant made some admissions but it was “not a full and frank admission.”
Peters accepted on occasions he had behaved “wrongly and inappropriately”.
Mr Jones said Peters claimed it had been “youthful curiosity” but that was not accepted by the Crown, particularly as he had reached adulthood during the later offences.
Two of the other victims read their impact statements to Liverpool Crown Court and the defendant’s wife, Esther, also read a moving statement telling of his remorse.
Mr Jones told how Peters abused the children, when they were aged between eight and 14, on numerous occasions.
Peters, of Plas Newton Lane, Chester, pleaded guilty to 12 offences of indecent assault and Mr Jones said each count reflected multiple incidents.
Ken Heckle, defending, said, “I could have flooded this court with testimonials.
“For the vast majority of while he was a youth he was immature and had low esteem, though that did not excuse what he did.”
The court heard Peters was remorseful and regretful, while he would have to move out of his home following his resignation.
The offences did not occur while Peters was ordained but they would affect his pension.
“His career and good name is now in tatters,” added Mr Heckle.
The defendant’s wife, Esther, is standing by him and the court heard they had suffered the tragedy of losing a son to cancer.
Mrs Peters said in court of her husband: “He has always given 100 per cent to his family and the ministry, even suppressing his own feelings and emotions to be strong for the rest of us.”
His wife, who said Peters recently revealed he had been abused when he was aged three, concluded her statement by saying: “I know he has a clear conscience about his time in the ministry and our marriage.”
The judge ordered Peters – who served other churches in the Diocese of Chester and latterly Throop parish in Bournemouth before being inducted at St Michael’s in February 2010 – to sign the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.