A member of the Jesus Army from Northampton has been jailed for five years for sexually abusing two boys at communes run by the Christian organisation elsewhere in the country.
Clifford Brett, aged 66, targeted one boy as he slept in his bed at a Jesus Army house in Preston, and lured another to his bedroom with the promise of dried fruit.
Throughout the 1990s the pensioner moved between Jesus Army’s network of properties in Preston and Northampton.
Preston Crown Court heard Brett, who worked as a school caretaker and lollipop man, lived as part of the religious community and was trusted by his fellow members.
While staying at a house in Preston, Brett crept into a youngster’s bedroom and lured him to his attic room, where he started talking about sex and made the youngster engage in sexual behaviour with him.
On another occasion, the paedophile promised another boy dried fruit but said he would have to come to his bedroom to get it.
Once in the bedroom, Brett groped the youngster as he pretended to be picking up the fruit.
Judge Stuart Baker, sentencing, said: “You were part of the community. Those children and their mothers were entitled to expect that anyone living in the house with them would not abuse them.”
Last year allegations emerged that he had carried out a string of rapes and sexual assaults on children living within the Lancashire Jesus Army community and Brett was called to stand trial.
The boys - who are now in their 20s - appeared visibly distressed as they recounted the abuse they suffered at Brett’s hands during their childhood.
Brett was cleared of 13 charges - including separate allegations relating to two girls - but convicted of three counts of indecency and indecent assault against the two boys who were living at the home.
Judge Baker said: “I take the view that for a 50 year old man as you were then to commit offences against two very young boys in domestic circumstances in which you were all living are offences so serious that had I been sentencing at the time, you would have inevitably faced an immediate custodial sentence.”
The judge handed Brett a four year sentence for abusing the first boy and a further 12 months for his attack on the second boy.
Both boys were still at primary school when they were targeted by Brett.
The pensioner, who lives in supported accommodation in Louise Street, Northampton, has been placed on the sex offenders register for life and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order to protect other children.
A spokesman for the Jesus Army said: “We welcome the verdict. We are deeply shocked and saddened by these crimes and the distress to the victims and their families.
“We hope the verdict will bring some sense of closure to these families.
“We are appalled that this abuse took place, that it happened on our church premises and that we have been connected to this appalling situation.”
Since the offences were committed in the 1990s the Jesus Army, or Jesus Foundation as it is now known, has taken safeguarding measures to protect children within its community, the group said.
In 2013 it invited disclosure from members of the congregation which led to a number of police investigations.
The organisation now employs safe guarding staff and is audited by the Churches Child Protection Advisory Services.