BREAKING NEWS: Polegate priest receives 10 year sentence for the “systematic” sexual assault of young boys and girls.

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A former priest has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for the “systematic” sexual abuse of vulnerable children.

Gordon Trevor Rideout was found guilty of two attempted rapes and 34 counts of indecent assault on young boys and girls in care homes over a 10 year period.

The 74-year-old stood motionless in the dock today (Monday) as one of his victims wept uncontrollably as the verdict was read out in Lewes Crown Court.

He hung his head as the jury foreman gave the guilty verdict to 36 of the 37 counts he stood trial for.

His Lord Justice Anthony described the evidence against Rideout as “clear and compelling” but had to sentence him under the sentencing regime as it was at the time the crimes were committed.

Judge Anthony said: “It is wholly clear the custodial threshold has been passed. It was a gross breach of trust.

“On the balance it seems quite clear to me the regime [in the care home] was harsh by today’s standards. Children were routinely not believed and particularly if the allegation was made against a clergyman and no doubt you were well aware of this and took full advantage of this.

“You groomed many of the children where any attention would have seemed something to cherish, but it is plain to me your sole aim was to abuse them sexually for your own gratification.

“Using your position in authority you took full advantage of the system and acted toward them in a way which affected them a great amount over the next 40 years of their lives and maybe until they die.”

The jury took 16 hours to find Rideout, of Filching Close, Polegate, guilty of his crimes which date back to his time as curate and chaplain visiting troubled children at care homes.

Judge Anthony said before sentence was read out: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury thank you for your attention over the weeks. And the 16 hours it took for you to come to a verdict shows you approached it carefully.

“In all but one count you found the evidence clear and compelling.”

Nigel Pilkington, Head of the CPS South East Complex Casework Unit, said: “As an assistant curate and then chaplain, Gordon Rideout was in a position of trust, which he systemically abused, indecently assaulting the vulnerable youngsters that he met over a number of years. He was able to wander through [the care home] and the gardens, even visiting children when they were sick and alone in bed.

“One victim recalled how the children would hide under their covers when he came into their dormitories.

“A number of his victims attempted to speak out about what Rideout was doing, but tragically at the time of the offences, a child’s word was not believed. Those who were brave enough to say anything were subjected to brutal beatings. Some of his victims told police in interviews that it simply ‘wasn’t worth complaining’ because of the punishment they would receive in return.”

More in this Friday’s edition of the Sussex Express.