Sex offender priest in court

The Guardian/September 1, 2004
By Stephen Bates

The Roman Catholic diocese of Westminster last night apologised to the male victims of a priest jailed for four years after it became clear that he had been allowed to resume his duties after admitting an earlier incident of sexual abuse.

The conviction of Father William Hofton, 49, appears to expose shortcomings in the church's risk assessment procedures introduced two years ago because the priest failed to admit other incidents of abuse.

Hofton, formerly a priest at Borehamwood in Hertfordshire and Kentish Town, north London, sobbed at Middlesex Guildhall crown court as his behaviour was described as "persistent and ongoing sexual harassment" of teenage brothers over a five year period.

In a statement his diocese said that it was "profoundly sorry" for his crimes. A spokesman said he would be stripped of his office.

Hofton originally admitted abuse after he was contacted by a former victim in 2002 about incidents at a seminary in 1986 when the youth was 17.

The priest reported the incident to the church authorities, who called in the police, removed him from parish duties and sent him for independent psychiatric assessment.

That concluded that he was a low risk and he was moved to another parish under conditions which stopped unsupervised access to young people, though his church was connected to a school.

The police did not pursue their investigation after the victim did not press charges.

Last year, though, two brothers came forward with new allegations about the priest's conduct over five years in the early 1990s, which the priest had not disclosed.

The court was told that Hofton showered the brothers with gifts and praise.

Specimen charges relating to masturbation and oral sex were presented to the court.

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