A CHOIRMASTER has been jailed after admitting abusing young children in the vestry at a Farnworth church.
Peter Williams was in charge of two choirs and was organist at St James’ CE Church, Farnworth, in the 1970s, Bolton Crown Court heard.
Rachel White, prosecuting, told how he preyed on an 11-year-old girl and a nine-year-old boy, using his position of trust in the church to sexually assault them.
Judge Timothy Clayson sentenced 60-year-old Williams to 28 months in prison adding that, had he committed his crimes more recently than the 1970s, he would have been facing a much longer sentence.
Williams, of Claremont Road, Salford, pleaded guilty to five counts of indecently assaulting a child and one count of indecency with a child.
The court heard that Williams, who was in his mid-20s in the late 1970s when the offences occurred, was responsible for the choirs’ practices and performances and had a position of trust in the community.
Judge Clayson said: “What you did to them was a very serious breach of trust.”
The abuse began when one of the choirgirls, then aged 11 or 12, was followed into a toilet by Williams who hugged her and then placed his hands on her bottom.
“Having committed that offence and got away with it, what followed was more serious.”
When the girl was aged 13, and alone with him in the vestry, he got her to perform a sex act on him which only ended when they were interrupted by a passer-by.
Williams also turned his attentions to a nine-year-old boy, ordering him to take his trousers down before sexually abusing him.
Judge Clayson was told that, in the early 1970s, before the offences were committed, Williams had already appeared in court for indecent behaviour on church premises.
“You were given a conditional discharge but it did not warn you off, so it seems,” Judge Clayson said.
David James, defending, said Williams needs to “deal with his own demons” but had not offended again in more than 30 years.
“He knows what he did was wrong,” said Mr James.
“Over 30 years ago he put matters in place to ensure it would not happen again.”
Judge Clayson told Williams that he must go to jail, although he could only be imprisoned according to the sentences which existed at the time.
“This was very serious sexual misconduct concerning young children who looked to you as someone they could trust.”
Williams’ victims were in court to see him sentenced but declined to speak afterwards. Investigating officer DC Mike Cooke said that police were satisfied with the outcome.
“The fact that he has received a custodial sentence is an acknowledgement that they have been believed,” said the officer.
He added that the victims had approached police in September 2012 after becoming concerned when they learned Williams was involved with another church in Manchester.
His involvement with that church ended with his arrest.
“The fact that he has now been sentenced, they hope, will encourage other people, generally, who have been abused to come forward and report matters to police,” said DC Cooke.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Manchester said: “The diocese works hard to safeguard children and young people.
“We act promptly on any complaints made, and work in close partnership with police and social care services where children or vulnerable adults have been harmed or are at risk of harm or mistreatment.”
A special helpline 0845 120 4553 has been set up for those who have been affected either directly or indirectly by abuse in a church or cathedral setting.