Priest, 63, who sexually abused boys as young as 10 on church youth club trips in the 1970s and 80s and tricked them into sex acts using a card game is jailed for five years
- Stephen Hardwicke abused boys as young as 10 on trips in the 1970s and 1980s
- He groomed his victims at a youth group connected to Stanmore Baptist Church
- Hardwicke, 63, was found guilty of five counts of historic indecent assault
A former priest who sexually abused three boys as young as 10 on church youth club trips in the 1970s and 80s has been jailed for five years.
Stephen Hardwicke, 63, tricked boys aged between 10 and 15 to perform sex acts by using a card game, Harrow Crown Court heard.
The abuse took place when Hardwicke was a leader and helped at the Way In church youth group, which was connected to Stanmore Baptist Church in Harrow, London.
A court heard how some of the abuse happened on overnight trips to Wales or Hertfordshire.
The abuse happened before Hardwicke became a priest at St Laurence Cowley Church in Uxbridge – he was suspended once a police investigation was opened.
Stephen Hardwicke, a former priest in Uxbridge, was jailed for five years on Friday, having been previously convicted of five counts of historic indecent assault against boys as young as 10 in the 1970s and 1980s
Last November Hardwicke was found guilty on five counts of historic indecent assault, following a nine day trial.
In one incident a victim was made to take part in sexual activity as part of a card game, prosecutors said.
Hardwicke carried out the abuse by taking ‘special interest’ in his victims and made them feel as if they had nowhere else to turn, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Police said Hardwicke took advantage of his young victims’ vulnerability by sexually abusing them on numerous occasions.
The initial allegation of abuse was reported to police in October 2015 and further investigations led officers to find another victim in 2017. Hardwicke was arrested and charged in June 2018.
Following the sentencing, Bambi Hammond of the CPS said Hardwicke ‘wilfully abused’ his position of trust within the church.
She added: ‘As a church leader Stephen Hardwicke was in a position of trust and he wilfully abused this. He used his position to allow him to commit his crimes against young boys.
‘Hardwicke took a special interest in these children’s lives. He groomed them and made sure he was the only person they could turn to.
‘These heinous crimes have left a long-lasting impact on Hardwicke’s victims who have suffered psychological harm as a result of this abuse.
‘I hope these convictions go some way in providing a sense of closure to these victims.’
The abuse took place while Hardwicke was the leader of a youth group connected to Stanmore Baptist Church in Harrow
Detective Constable Nicola Cameron, the Met Police’s investigating officer from the Edgware Child Abuse Investigation Team, said historic abuse crimes should be reported to officers.
She said: ‘Hardwicke took advantage of his young victims’ vulnerability, sexually abusing them on numerous occasions when the opportunities presented themselves.
I would like to praise the victims’ courage in reporting what happened to them to police.
‘A crime committed over 30 years ago is still a crime. While investigations into non-recent sexual offences can be challenging, we have specially trained officers who will follow up all lines of inquiry, and seek to prosecute when the evidence will support it.’
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