Priest extradited from U.S. jailed for UK sex abuse

LONDON Fri Oct 22, 2010 12:59pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - A former Roman Catholic priest was jailed for 21 years on Friday for sexual offences against boys, after being extradited to Britain from the United States.

James Robinson, a former boxer and colliery blacksmith, was found guilty of 21 charges of sexual abuse between 1959 and 1983, including offences against two altar boys.

Robinson, 73, used his status as a priest to gain "unfettered and unlimited" access to boys, giving them gifts and taking them on trips in his sports car, prosecutor John Atwood told the court in Birmingham, central England.

Judge Patrick Thomas described the defendant as a devious and manipulative man who abused his position of trust.

"The offences you committed were unimaginably wicked and caused immense and long-lasting -- we can only hope not permanent -- damage," Britain's Press Association quoted him as saying during sentencing. "You enjoyed, I have no doubt at all, selecting your victims, choosing vulnerable children."

The defendant, whose full name is Richard John James Robinson, fled to the United States in 1985 after he came under investigation and was extradited from California to Britain last year to face trial.

Robinson, who was ordained in 1971, had denied all charges.

"I have no doubt there are more victims, not only in this country but in America," Detective Sergeant Harry May said after the guilty verdicts.

Snap, an independent group that supports victims of abuse by clergy in the United States, highlighted Robinson's case during protests against Pope Benedict's state visit to England and Scotland last month.

Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley said the church had cooperated with police and remained committed to the protection of children.

"The Archdiocese of Birmingham sincerely regrets James Robinson's serious betrayal of the trust placed in him," he said in a statement.

The scandal over clerical sexual abuse of children has shaken the church around the world, including in Britain.

A church report commissioned in 2001 recommended the establishment of the Catholic Office for the Protection of Children and measures to stamp out pedophile activity in the church, which were adopted.

(Writing by Avril Ormsby; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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