Paedophile rape minister jailed for life

A paedophile church minister who groomed young boys for sex attacks has been jailed for life.

Simon Thomas was told by judge Jeremy Burford QC, at Southampton Crown Court, that he would serve a minimum of eight years in prison before being eligible for parole.

The 44-year-old married man with four children, was also banned from communicating with children and from working with children and placed on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Thomas, a minister with the United Reformed Church in Hythe, Hants, pleaded guilty last month to 35 charges, including two offences of rape against an 11-year-old boy.

Other offences included taking indecent photos of children and indecency with sexual activity with a child, involving nine boys aged between 11 and 15.

It emerged earlier this week that Thomas committed the majority of the offences after the police and church leaders received warnings of him having sexual liaisons with minors he met on the internet. He was questioned in 2003 but police halted the inquiry without checking his computers.

The court heard that Thomas would contact young boys through internet chatrooms where he would use flattery and obscenity to seduce them.

When police examined computers seized from his home they discovered 1,200 names of people he had met on the internet, 97 of whom were boys aged under 16. The chart included details of the boys as well as comments about them.

The court heard that Thomas got some of his victims to expose themselves on webcams and he also showed his naked body to them over the internet. He also arranged to meet four of the boys in town centres from where he drove to secluded spots to abuse them. He also met one boy at his home where he seduced the boy into performing a sex act on him before he raped him.

The court was told that the 35 offences, which included 19 indecent images and video footage on his computer, were committed during a four-and-half-year period.

Sentencing Thomas, judge Burford said that only a life sentence was appropriate because it was not clear when Thomas would be safe to be released.

Judge Burford said: “The same good social skills that made you a successful priest were used to harm those young boys and breach their trust.”

The judge added that Thomas had led a double life which had deceived not only his family but his employers and congregation .

He added: “You have been convicted of serious specified sexual offences, there’s no doubt there’s a significant risk to young boys of serious psychological harm by you committing further offences.

“It’s impossible to say when, if ever, you’re sexual lust for boys will ever cease.”