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

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. 

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.

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