A Catholic priest who enticed a besotted 12-year-old parishioner into gay sex acts was today jailed for five years.

Father William Jacks, 49, a former secretary to the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, carried out the abuse over a four-year period starting in 1987.

Sentencing him today, Judge David Hodson told the defendant he had abused his trusted position within the community.

He said today: "You were in a position of huge moral responsibility towards the victim of your offences.

"It is rightly assumed by people at large that a child in your company would be free from your sexual advances.

"As it was you took advantage of a clearly vulnerable boy who was unsure of his sexuality."

The judge agreed that Jacks had not used threats, coercion or force to make the boy perform sex acts, but had groomed his victim and engineered situations in which they could happen.

Judge Hodson added: "He clearly had the highest regard for you.

"He regarded you as his mentor yet you abused that trust."

The judge also said Jacks had damaged the Church's reputation, telling him: "You have brought shame on your priestly vocation and lowered the regard the public at large had for the priesthood."

At last month's trial in which a jury found Jacks guilty, his victim, now aged 26 and who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Newcastle Crown Court he had idolised the cleric.

"He was everything to me. He was a father figure to me, I worshipped him and thought he worshipped me.

"He was a friend, mentor and someone I respected," he said.

But almost 10 years after the last attack, he finally reported his tormentor on spotting a picture in a Catholic newspaper of the priest working with children.

Jacks, a solicitor in Darlington, County Durham, before entering the priesthood, was convicted of one charge of indecency with a child and three of indecent assault.

He was cleared of a fourth indecent assault on the boy.

The jury had heard how Jacks initially molested the boy after playing squash with him and then over the years in a church presbytery.

Attacks also took place at the priest's home, in the Bishop's residence and in the presbytery of St Patrick's RC Church, in Felling, Tyneside, where he worked as a curate after being ordained.

Jacks was a priest at St Joseph's Church, in Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, when he was arrested and charged with the offences last year.

He denied the charges although he admitted having an affair with the boy once he turned 16.

Today, David Robson QC for the defence, told the judge his client had lost the thing he valued most in the world his priesthood.

Mr Robson said his client had not re-offended and that neither the Church nor the police had received complaints about Jacks from others.

The judge was handed two letters of support from priests and one from a couple who attended Jacks's church.

In sentencing him to five years, Judge Hodson said a long tariff was inevitable because of the seriousness of the offences.

Jacks has already been placed on the sex offenders' register indefinitely.