A former parish reverend and youth club leader has been jailed for historic sex offences against young boys.

Stephen Hardwicke indecently assaulted three boys aged between 10 and 18 years old in the the mid 1970s and early 1980s.

The 63-year-old was a leader at the Way In church youth group attached to Stanmore Baptist Church in Harrow at the time.

Some of the abuse took place on overnight trips to Wales or Hertfordshire with the youth group. In one incident a victim was made to take part in sexual activity as part of a card game.

The initial allegation of abuse was reported to police in 2015 and police made contact with the other victim in 2017.

Hardwicke, of Church Road, Uxbridge, was charged in 2018 and found guilty on November 25 last year following a nine-day trial at Harrow Crown Court.

On Friday, January 15, Hardwicke was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for five counts of indecent assault against two victims.

Detective Constable Nicola Cameron, the investigating officer from the Edgware Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “Hardwicke took advantage of his young victims’ vulnerability, sexually abusing them on numerous occasions when the opportunities presented themselves. I would like to praise the victims’ courage in reporting what happened to them to police.

“A crime committed over 30 years ago is still a crime. While investigations into non-recent sexual offences can be challenging, we have specially trained officers who will follow up all lines of inquiry, and seek to prosecute when the evidence will support it.”

Bambi Hammond, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “As a church leader Stephen Hardwicke was in a position of trust and he wilfully abused this. He used his position to allow him to commit his crimes against young boys.

“Hardwicke took a special interest in these children’s lives. He groomed them and made sure he was the only person they could turn to.

“These heinous crimes have left a long-lasting impact on Hardwicke’s victims who have suffered psychological harm as a result of this abuse.

“I hope these convictions go some way in providing a sense of closure to these victims.”