'I have suffered in silence for years': Altar boy victim of Northamptonshire priest tells court of historic abuse

Paul Clarke was jailed at Northampton Crown Court today for abusing one of his altar boys in the 1970s.
Paul Clarke was jailed at Northampton Crown Court today for abusing one of his altar boys in the 1970s.

The victim of a Northamptonshire priest who groomed and sexually abused him as a child has told a court how he was 'stripped of his childhood'.

Paul Clarke, 74, was jailed today for the historic abuse of one of his altar boys in a Northamptonshire village in the 1970s.

But Northampton Crown Court heard today (October 19) how Clarke - who was in his 30s at the time - used "every opportunity" he had alone with his victim to molest and abuse him for years.

Before Clarke was sent to jail, his victim told the court how the abuse had damaged his life in a victim impact statement he read to the judge.

He said: "I have suffered in silence for many years as [my abuser] has never been brought to justice... It was easier to bury it as deep as possible rather than try to deal with it.

"I have been left confused and guilty as to why this had to happen to me. I was stripped of my childhood.

"As a result, I feel I have missed many opportunities in my life to be happy.

"I wish to feel safe and happy in the future and that no other children has to suffer at the hands of this monster."

The court heard how the victim and his family confronted Clarke in the 1970s and Clarke responded by writing an apology letter asking them to 'pray for me'.

The family even raised their complaints with Clarke's superiors at the time - The Order Of Friars Minor in London. The court heard how the order asked the family to give them the letter of apology and said they would address it.

But it was only in 2016 when the victim's family saw that Clarke had been convicted of possessing over 2,500 indecent images of children that they believed their complaints had never been escalated.

His Honour Judge Michael Fowler told the court: "It's not my role to investigate [this] but it seems to me that what was done was to take the letter and the case and effectively it was buried."

The victim and his family reported the historic abuse to the police in 2017. Clarke - who now lives in Trafford, Greater Manchester - later pleaded guilty to indecency.

Judge Fowler said: "The consequences for the rest of [this man's] life have been made dramatically clear to me.

"It's clear that whatever the passage of time that the damage remains a part of the adult man.

"That such wickedness should be perpetrated by a man that was supposed to give spiritual and moral guidance to a congregation represents hypocrisy and wickedness on a whole other level."

Clarke was handed a six-and-a-half year sentence and will remain on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.