A CHURCH of England vicar has been jailed for sexually abusing a boy when he was a teacher in Bradford.

David Fletcher, 63, whose ministry includes 12 churches in East Yorkshire, was found guilty of two charges of indecent assault by a jury at Bradford Crown Court last month.

The Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC, said the victim had looked up to Fletcher as a “father figure” and labelled his actions a “considerable breach of trust.”

Bradford Crown Court heard today that the offences Fletcher had been convicted of took place while he was living at a smallholding in Queensbury between late 1986 and 1988, when the boy was aged 11 and 12.

The defendant, now of Pulham Lane, Wetwang, Driffield, was then deputy head of St Oswald’s Church of England Primary School in Little Horton, Bradford, before later becoming head of St Barnabas School in Heaton.

He changed career paths in 2001 when he was ordained into the Church of England priesthood.

During his trial, the complainant, now a married man, told the court Fletcher repeatedly thrust his body at him and “snogged” him while they were tending goats at the property.

The victim also accused Graham Doyle, a former vicar at St Oswald’s Church, Little Horton, of sexually abusing him, but he was not brought before the court.

During the trial, the Venerable Andy Broom, Archdeacon of the East Riding of Yorkshire, told the jury that Fletcher had disclosed to him at a private meeting in November 2014 that the man had made allegations against him on Facebook.

The following month, Fletcher had to “step back” from ministry activity involving children within the Diocese of York because the police had become involved, and the court heard he had not worked at all since being formally charged with the offences.

In mitigation for Fletcher, his barrister Rodney Ferm said the consequences of his client’s conviction meant he had lost “his good name, his livelihood, and his home”.

He said the offending had occurred over a maximum period of 18 months and consisted of “low-level” incidents.

Arguing that any jail term could be suspended, he said: “This man’s service to the community over 30 years would justify this in every sense of the word.”

Judge Thomas said Fletcher had come to know the boy and his mother, who suffered from ill-health, through his role as a teacher.

He told the defendant he had played out his “homosexual, indecent, and unlawful tendencies” on the boy by touching and kissing him.

“It is difficult to envisage a bigger breach of trust than this. He looked up to you," said Judge Thomas.

“This is not the sort of conduct someone could file away and forget. Your conviction will have very considerable consequences for you and your family. It will bring to an end your life as a minister in the church.”

Fletcher was also ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

After the case, the Diocese of York issued a statement offering an “unreserved apology” to the victim.

It said: “We are profoundly sorry for the abuse perpetrated by Mr Fletcher and remain committed to doing everything possible to ensure the well-being of children, young people and adults, who look to us for respect and care.”

Also speaking after the case, an NSPCC spokesman said: “Fletcher abused a position of trust during a long campaign of horrifying abuse.

“He shamelessly took advantage of his vulnerable victim, who has shown tremendous courage in reliving his experiences in court.

“It’s important that he receives all possible support to help him rebuild his life.”

Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC helpline in confidence, 24 hours a day seven days a week, on 0800 808 5000 or at help@nspcc.org.uk.

Children can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or at childline.org.uk