A former priest who ran a church youth club has been jailed for grooming and sexually abusing three boys - one as young as 10-years-old.
Stephen Hardwicke, 63, from Uxbridge in London, was sentenced to five years in prison for five counts of indecent assault at Harrow Crown Court on Friday.
The ex-parish reverend targeted the three boys aged between 10 and 18 over five years during the mid-1970s and early 1980s.
Hardwicke was a leader and helper at the Way In church youth group connected to Stanmore Baptist Church in Harrow, northwest London at the time.
The priest 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 prosecutors.
He abused the boys on several occasions including on overnight youth group trips to Wales or Hertfordshire, the court heard during the nine-day trial.
Prosecutors said that in one incident, a victim was made to take part in sexual activity as part of a card game.
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. He was found guilty of five counts of historic indecent assault at Harrow Crown Court on November 25.
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Following the sentencing, Bambi Hammond of the CPS said Hardwicke "wilfully abused" his position of trust within the church.
She added: "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."
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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