A Chester vicar who repeatedly sexually abused four children has been jailed for two years.
The Rev Robert Peters, who has now resigned as vicar of St Michael’s in Newton, indecently assaulted two girls and two boys, who were younger than him, when he was aged between 14 and 20 or 21.
One of his victims, now a grown man, choked back tears as he told a court of the impact of the abuse on his life and two other victims also read their moving statements.
One victim spoke of their anger at his arrogance at him officiating at their father’s funeral, saying: “When he turned up to take the service at my dad’s funeral I felt sick.”
Sentencing 62-year-old Peters, Judge Alan Conrad QC said, “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 when on vacation from university.
“This case is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified,” said Judge Conrad, who added that 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. 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,” he said.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that the offences, which began in the 1960s, 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’ whereabout via the Church of England website, said Ben Jones, prosecuting.
Interviewed in January
When interviewed in January Peters made some admissions but it was “not a full and frank admission”. He 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 vicar’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.
Good name in tatters
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.”
He is remorseful and regretful and, having resigned, he will lose his home and although the offences did not occur while he was a minister, it will also affect his pension, he said.
“His career and good name is now in tatters.”
His wife, Esther, is standing by him and they had suffered the tragedy of losing a son to cancer, said Mr Heckle.
Mrs Peters told the court: “He has always given 100% 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 that he recently revealed he himself had been abused when he was three, concluded her statement: “I know he has a clear conscience about his time in the ministry and our marriage.”
The judge ordered Peters, who was a minister at other churches in the Chester diocese and latterly in Throop parish in Bournemouth before going to St Michael’s in February 2010, to sign the Sex Offenders Register for ten years.