Wicked vicar gets 14 years for raping young boys

Yorkshire Post/October 16, 2009

A Yorkshire vicar who raped two young boys and committed a catalogue of sex abuse crimes against youngsters has been jailed for 14 years, prompting a review of all clergy in his diocese.

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

During a 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.

The Diocese of Bradford last night confirmed it had begun an external review of the records of all clergy and licensed lay workers following the case, to monitor whether there are "causes for concern".

It added that it will also submit the case to an independent review to see whether any lessons can be learned to improve the care of children in its charge.

Judge Peter Benson said Hedge had brought disgrace on the church and branded him one of the most manipulative individuals he had come across.

He said Hedge had abused the trust 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.

The judge said: "As a result of your conduct, which really defies description in its wickedness, you not only robbed these young men of their childhood, but it's clear from the evidence that I heard that you scarred their young lives."

In 1997 one of the boys reported Hedge's assault on him to the police and although the clergyman was questioned he was never charged.

Hedge, of Chatsworth Road, Pudsey, was suspended from his post at the church when the allegations came to light two years ago and he stood emotionless in the dock as the jury returned unanimous verdicts.

Sentencing him Judge Benson said: "It is a measure of your audacity and your confidence in your ability to manipulate others that despite being arrested in 1997 you continued abusing young boys thereafter."

The now disgraced vicar, originally from Rotherham, had won a place at Oxford to study chemistry but dropped out in the early 1980s.

He ended up sleeping rough at the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway and became involved in volunteer work there. Later in 1993 he was ordained to the church.

Hedge denied two charges of rape and several other sexual assault allegations, claiming that the victims were motivated by hopes of compensation. He claimed that since the incident in 1997 had had never been alone with a child.

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