A CLERGYMAN used his position in the Church to allow him to sexually abuse three girls over the course of a chequered career.

Richard Landall was seen as a, “pillar of the community” and a, “good Christian”, initially working as an Army padre, but later as a parish vicar in different parts of the country.

Durham Crown Court heard that after a complaint was made about his activities with one girl, in 2004, which he strenuously denied, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue the case, leaving the victim feeling as if she was not believed.

But it was only in more recent years after another complainant came forward to report what had happened to her, while Landall was studying and training for his ordination in Durham in the late 1980s, that the other cases were re-investigated, and charges were brought.

By then he had resigned from the Church following an investigation into his activities in 2013, after which he was barred from working with children.

Richard Herrmann, prosecuting, said earlier in his career, while a chaplain in the Army, he underwent a Courts Martial for allegedly sexually assaulting the wives of former colleagues.

Although he was cleared, he left the Army as a result and moved to the Church of England.

Mr Herrmann said Landall told one victim, after abusing her, that God would be happy with her, and because he was a vicar, what he did to her was, “God’s will.”

Landall, 64, of Lowther Street, Penrith, faced 17 counts of indecent assault and indecency with a child, which he denied.

He was convicted on 12 counts after an eight-day trial at the court, last month, after which he was remanded in custody.

The sentencing hearing was told he remains in denial.

His counsel, Andrew Espley, said he is not in, “robust health”, suffering with arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure.

As a pre-sentence report stated he poses, “a high risk of serious sexual and emotional harm to children”, Judge James Adkin passed an extended determinate sentence to include a 19-year custodial element, to be followed by four years’ extended licence period.

It means the defendant will have to serve at least two-thirds of the 19 years, 12 years and eight months, before he can be considered for parole, but may spend the full 19 years behind bars.

Judge Adkin told Landall: “You behaved as a sinister, extremely manipulative sexual predator and I have seen no evidence your proclivities have changed.”

He was made subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, registration as a sex offender, and restraining orders, all for life.

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054