London: A priest was jailed for 18 years today for sexually abusing boys at a top British Catholic school in crimes dating back to the 1970s.
Andrew Soper, 74, fled to Kosovo in 2011 to avoid prosecution over charges that he molested boys while headmaster at St Benedict's School in London.
He was extradited in 2016 to face 19 counts of indecent assault and buggery against 10 former pupils in the 1970s and 1980s. A jury at the Old Bailey central criminal court in London found him guilty of all charges on December 6.
Sentencing him today, judge Anthony Bate said that Soper's conduct was "the most appalling breach of trust" and that he had "subverted the rules of the Benedictine order and teachings of the Catholic Church".
Bate said Soper's life would now be "overshadowed by the proven catalogue of vile abuse". "Your disgrace is complete," he added.
The trial heard how Soper's victims were subjected to sadistic beatings for "fake reasons" including kicking a football "in the wrong direction", "failing to use double margins" and "using the (wrong) staircase", leading to a caning and a sexual assault.
Giving evidence, Soper denied using the cane as a ruse to abuse boys who were given the choice of six lashes with trousers on, or three with them off.
"Soper abused his position of trust as headmaster of a middle school over a sustained period of time," police Detective Superintendent Ang Scott said after the sentencing. "Throughout the investigation he has attempted to evade justice by leaving the UK and then failing to answer his bail."
Speaking of the victims, he said: "Although it can never make up for the emotional and psychological trauma caused by Soper's crimes, I hope the sentence handed to him today can give them some form of closure."