Bishop of Chichester responds to sex abuse priest conviction

Former priest Gordon Rideout has been sentenced for child sex offences
Former priest Gordon Rideout has been sentenced for child sex offences

THE Bishop of Chichester has spoken out after the latest sentencing of a priest for historic sex offences against children.

Speaking after the sentencing of former priest Gordon Rideout, Dr Martin Warner said: “Our primary concern today is with the people who have had to live for a very long time with the consequences of the shameful abuse they suffered from Gordon Rideout.

“We should pay tribute to those who, at considerable personal and emotional cost, have been able to come forward, to provide evidence, and to substantiate accusations as witnesses in the trial which has led to a guilty verdict. Gordon Rideout has been the cause of immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time.

“He has also betrayed the trust and respect of many who have valued his ministry.

“Today’s verdict will have repercussions in many different ways across Sussex and beyond.”

Rideout was convicted of 36 sexual offences against 16 boys and girls on Monday (May 20), following a six-week trial at Lewes Crown Court. He was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

Rideout, 74 of Filching Close, Wannock, Polegate, will also be required to register as a sex offender for life.

Thirty-four of the offences were of indecent assault, 30 of which took place at the now closed Barnardo’s childrens’ home, Ifield Hall, in Crawley, West Sussex, between 1965 and 1967. Four took place at an army site in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, between 1970 and 1972. The other two offences were of the attempted rape of one of the girls at Ifield Hall between 1962 and 1966.

Rideout was found not guilty of indecently assaulting a teenage boy at a Barnardo’s childrens’ home in Barkingside, Essex, between 1965 and 1967.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon Gross said: “It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this verdict for those who have finally seen justice, many decades after being prey to the sexual abuse perpetrated by Rideout.

“His offending over that period has been hugely impactive upon the lives of his victims, from childhood to the present day. It is hoped this case will bring a sense of closure to all of those who provided evidence to the investigation while underlining to the wider community that it is never too late to report serious crimes.”

Dr Warner thanked the diocesan safeguarding adviser, Colin Perkins, and his team, who worked closely with police, for their role during the investigation.

“But, we are left with the question of why it has taken so long for these grave accusations to be taken seriously and brought to trial,” he said. “What lessons do we all have to learn from this terrible catalogue of abuse about the strength and effectiveness of our communication within and between agencies that have responsibility for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults?”