Sussex Police have issued a statement following the conviction of the Rev Christopher Howarth of sexual offences against two boys.
Mr Howarth was convicted at Hove Crown Court this afternoon (17 July) after a ten-day trial of 26 offences, all committed in the Uckfield area.
He was found not guilty of five offences.
He had previously pleaded guilty to two other sexual offences against one of the boys.
See details of the charges here
Howarth, who had been on court bail during the trial, was remanded in custody for sentencing on August 7.
Howarth was convicted of 16 offences against one of the boys, between 2005 and 2011 when the boy was aged between 10 and 17. See story here for details of charges.
They were; three of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity; eight of sexual activity with a child; four of sexual assault on a child; and one of taking indecent photographs of a child.
The police statement said:
The investigation started in December 2012 when police were first told of allegations by the younger boy. Enquiries were made and Howarth was arrested in the same month.
The second boy came forward with allegations during 2013.
Detective Constable Amy Green said: “Howarth came to know the boys in his capacity as a lay priest at Holy Cross CofE church in Uckfield, when they were very young, and befriended them over several years, giving support, but also offending against them. He was suspended by the Church as soon as the allegations came to light.
“Some of the offences against both boys took place in the study at his home, and one of the boys was also assaulted in Howarth’s office at Uckfield Community Technology College, where he was deputy principal until his retirement eight years ago.
“The Diocese of Chichester and the College have given us full co-operation throughout this investigation.
“The two victims, now adults, gave evidence by live video-link into the court and were subject to robust cross-examination. Their evidence clearly convinced the jury of Howarth’s guilt on 26 of the 31 indictments. He had already pleaded guilty to two other offences against one of the boys.
“This was a complex and sensitive case, but it illustrates once again the way in which we will always take seriously such allegations, refer victims to sources of support and counselling, and where appropriate will recommend prosecution.”