09/03/2012 16:44 GMT | Updated 09/03/2012 16:45 GMT

Paedophile Catholic Priest Alexander Bede Walsh Jailed

Paedophile priest Alexander Bede Walsh who used his "revered" status to prey on young boys for nearly two decades was jailed on Friday.

Walsh, 58, was branded "shameless" by a judge at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court for the "serial and predatory behaviour" which saw him manipulate his position in the Church to target his victims.

The Catholic clergyman was jailed for 22 years after being convicted of 21 sexual offences against boys in Coventry, Staffordshire and Warwickshire between 1975 and 1993.

Judge Paul Glenn told Walsh: "Shameless accurately describes your attitude to these proceedings, you have shown no remorse at any time.

"In fact, the jury was satisfied you lied repeatedly to them."

He added: "You used God's name as a lever ... manipulating God's teaching for your own devices."

The court was told some of the victims, one of whom later tried to kill himself, had been forced to wear disposable nappies while Walsh took photographs of them.

The judge said: "The victims were all young, they were all vulnerable.

"Some had to suffer the additional degradation of being made to wear nappies and be photographed."

Referring to one of the boys who was subjected to a serious sexual assault by Walsh, the judge said: "Such was his religious conviction, he believed he was being touched by the hand of God ... that he was on the path to God."

The court heard that after that victim was assaulted he went home and tried to hang himself.

Walsh, of Church Lane, Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, worked in parishes in Coventry, Banbury and north Staffordshire after being ordained in 1979.

He also served at a Roman Catholic boarding school in Staffordshire and at a now-closed children's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire.

He was arrested and interviewed in 2006 after two men contacted police to claim they had been abused in Coventry as children.

Further complainants came forward between 2008 and last year and all eight victims gave evidence at the trial.

He was convicted of two serious sexual offences and 19 counts of indecent assault against boys aged between eight and 16. He had denied all the charges.

The judge told Walsh: "The fact that the victims came forward as late as they did is indicative of their continuing inner turmoil."

As Walsh was led out of the dock, showing no emotion, a man in the public gallery applauded and shouted, "Good riddance."

The Most Rev Bernard Longley, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, said he had been "shocked and appalled" by the abuse.

In a statement issued after Walsh's conviction, the Archbishop said: "These are horrendous crimes, and I first want to express my deep sense of shame at what has taken place.

"It is the most serious betrayal of trust. I also want to express my profound sorrow and deep regret to each of the victims, then children, now adults, for the abuse perpetrated by Father Bede Walsh, whom they and their families trusted as a priest."

Detective Constable Tim Bailey from Staffordshire Police, who led the investigation into Walsh's crimes, said: "I am very pleased with the result. The judge is right, he is shameless. He has shown no remorse, throughout the whole investigation and the trial.

"The victims are serving a life sentence in this case, so now Walsh can serve his sentence. It was difficult for them to come forward, they are all grown men.

"If Walsh had any integrity or decency he would not have put them through it. To drag them to court to relive those experiences in front of people they don't know, it is disgraceful, terrible.

"He is a disgrace to humanity."