A METHODIST minister used hypnosis to indecently assault four boys in his manse or at their home, a court has heard.

Retired Reverend John Price, 82, of Ash Tree Close, Bedale, appeared at Teesside Crown Court where he denies 14 counts of indecent assault on boys aged between 11 and 17.

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, told the jury: "During the late 1970s and some of the 1980s he was a minister at various churches in North Yorkshire and Humberside.

"You are going to hear from four men, and all four of these men, then boys, were members of his congregations.

"The prosecution says that all four make strikingly similar allegations against the defendant, namely that whilst they were in their mid-teens, the defendant attempted, so he said, to hypnotise them, he said to help them relax, and then he proceeded to abuse them sexually.

"The prosecution says what the defendant did was a gross breach of trust.

"This abuse was carefully planned and pre-meditated."

Mr Newcombe said the defendant's case was that the witnesses were lying.

Price is accused of indecently assaulting two youths while he was at York Methodist Church and two while he was a minister in Pocklington.

He sometimes used a blanket or cloak as part of his hypnosis technique, while he told another boy to hold a 50p piece until he dropped it, believing then that he was in a trance, the court was told.

Mr Newcombe said Price groped one victim in a vestry while hypnotising him to help with his "nerves".

The witness told police he felt "powerless and stupid" during the process.

He told a senior member of the church what had happened but was "sent away with a flea in his ear" and told "not to be silly", the prosecution said.

Price offered to hypnotise another boy to help him cope with stress, touching his body, the court heard.

The experience left the youth "embarrassed and confused", Mr Newcombe said.

He wrote to the Methodist Church in 2013 about what happened after he heard it was conducting a "child abuse review", the jury heard.

Price indecently assaulted a third victim at his home in Pocklington when his wife and daughter were out, the court heard.

After being hypnotised and molested, the youth said he felt "shocked, frozen, appalled and at a loss as to know what to do", Mr Newcombe said.

The fourth complainant was hypnotised to deal with pain, the court heard.

Price got the boy to lie naked on a bed before abusing him, Mr Newcombe said.

"After this abuse was over the defendant would 'wake' the boy and tell him to forget," the prosecutor said.

"No doubt the defendant was convinced that he was able to hypnotise these lads.

"It seems that all the boys feigned a trance as a coping mechanism.

"The defendant may think he got away with it because he was a successful hypnotist and also, he was a respectable figure."

The court has heard that complainants saw a newspaper article in 1999 which said Price had indecently assaulted a 14-year-old boy after hypnosis.