Father Keith Wilkie Denford jailed over child sex abuse

Father Keith Wilkie Denford and Michael Mytton
Image caption Father Keith Wilkie Denford and Michael Mytton had denied the charges

A retired Church of England priest who abused teenage boys has been jailed for 18 months at Hove Crown Court.

Father Keith Wilkie Denford, 78, of Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, was found guilty at an earlier hearing of indecently assaulting two teenage boys.

Church organist Michael Mytton, 69, of East Chiltington, East Sussex, was given a suspended nine-month jail term for indecently assaulting a third boy,

He was made subject to a sex offender programme and two years' supervision.

Mytton was found guilty of three charges at a previous hearing.

Both defendants had denied abusing the boys between 1987 and 1990, while Denford was vicar at St John the Evangelist Church in Burgess Hill.

'No greater fall'

Judge Paul Tain told Denford: "For the most part you led a blameless life but unfortunately you hid a dark secret which appears to have been that, probably when inebriated, you were unable, on this limited number of occasions, to prevent yourself from engaging in wholly inappropriate behaviour with young boys."

He added: "There can be no greater breach of trust than a man playing the role of a man of God, and as the spiritual adviser to the family concerned, to take advantage of that position to abuse small children."

In mitigation, Lewis Power QC said: "For a man who has devoted almost half a century to God's work, there can be no greater falling from grace as these convictions."

He said Denford was "a fraction of the man" he had been before his arrest and asked whether it was in the public interest to jail a man who was on the cusp of being an octogenarian.

He added Denford and Mytton were not acting together to commit abuse and there was no risk of reoffending.

Archbishop's apology

During the trial, jurors heard that on one occasion Denford got into a bath with one of the boys while aroused.

On another he pressed himself up against a boy with the words: "How nice it is to have a cuddle."

The pair are the latest figures to be linked to the Diocese of Chichester child sex abuse scandal, which has seen several clergymen arrested, charged and convicted for historic sex crimes against children.

Police were alerted to the Denford case last year after one of the boys found he was still in contact with children.

Last week, a report was published into child protection policies in the diocese.

In an apology, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Justin Welby said the Anglican church could never ignore the "hurt and damage" of victims who should "never have been let down" by people who should have been trusted.

Safeguarding 'priority'

Following the hearing, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said many people's lives had been affected by the betrayal of trust and he offered his deep regret.

He said Denford and Mytton's crimes were not reported to the diocese before 2011 and the church would continue to work with the authorities and engage with victims and offer them support.

He said: "I am committed to ensure that all our parishes are places where people entrusted to our care are safe and secure and I will continue the work in making sure our safeguarding measures will always be a priority at every level across the diocese."

Det Con Lee Scott, from Sussex Police, also said none of the offences was reported at the time they occurred and the force had full cooperation from the diocese during the investigation.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites