Former East Sussex priest sentenced to 16 years for non-recent sex offences against young boy
A former Church of England priest has been given a 16-year prison sentence for sexual offences against a young boy in his East Sussex vicarage between 25 and 30 years ago.
Following a Sussex Police investigation, and a trial over nine days, Ifor Whittaker, 73, currently of Rectory Road, Sutton, previously known as Colin Pritchard, was convicted of and sentenced at Hove Crown Court on Thursday (22 February) for seven offences against the boy, who was then aged between 10 and 14, between February 1987 and February 1991.
They were; two offences of inciting the boy to commit an act of gross indecency; two offences of gross indecency; two offences of buggery, and of conspiracy with another local vicar, Roy Cotton (since deceased), to commit acts of indecency with the boy.
He was sentenced to a total of sixteen years imprisonment.
Whittaker was Vicar of Sedlescombe at the time, and the offences took place in the vicarage there.
The prosecution followed an investigation by the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit and detectives have had full co-operation from the Diocese of Chichester throughout the investigation.
There are no current safeguarding issues for the Church or the local community in relation to the case.
The court heard that in 2008 Whittaker, then Pritchard, had been sentenced to five years imprisonment at Northampton Crown Court after pleading guilty to sexual offences against two young boys whilst he was a vicar in Wellingborough during the 1980s.
At that trial he also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to sexually assault one of them with Cotton, and to commit buggery, and those charges were ordered by the trial judge to lie on the court file, not proceeded with.
As a result of that case he is already a registered sex offender for life.
Whittaker changed his name from Pritchard by deed poll after that case.
The Sussex investigation began in 2012 when police followed up information from the Diocese that in the late 1990’s the victim may have been sexually assaulted by Roy Cotton, then vicar of nearby Brede, who died in 2006, and that Whittaker, known to be a close friend of Cotton, might also have been involved.
At that stage and again in the following year, the victim discussed the way in which Cotton had assaulted him, and had met Whittaker through Cotton but did not disclose any offences by Whittaker.
In 2014 officers contacted the victim yet again to seek to resolve the enquiry, which had been part of the large Sussex Police investigation Operation Perry, and which had resulted in conviction and sentencing of three other priests from the Diocese for sexual offences against young boys and men.
At this point the victim disclosed that he had not been telling the full story. He described how Whittaker had systematically abused him at the Sedlescombe vicarage.
To begin with he was only abused by Cotton at Brede, but sometimes felt that they were being watched, with Whittaker appearing in the room almost immediately afterwards.
Whittaker then invited the boy to come to Sedlescombe under the guise of doing some gardening, often taken there by Cotton, where he would be plied with a drink of coke but which he felt was spiked with alcohol. Then the assaults would begin, with Whittaker telling the boy that if he spoke out nobody would believe him.
Detective Constable Chris Smith of the Sussex Police Complex Abuse Unit said; “The victim, now a man in his forties, was a vulnerable child when Whittaker took cynical advantage of him for his own sexual gratification.
"The victim told us that Cotton, although his principal abuser, 'passed me over like a toy to be borrowed by a friend'.
“We are glad that Whittaker has finally faced justice, and we have ensured that the victim, who gave evidence in court, has had access to sources of advice, counselling and support.