DISGRACED church minister Neville Husband will be defrocked -more than two years after he was convicted of sexually abusing teenagers while serving as a prison officer.

He was already serving eight years in jail for molesting five inmates at Medomsley Detention Centre, in Consett, County Durham, where he worked as a warder during the 1970s and 1980s. He had denied the charges and had launched an appeal.

This week, Husband, who trained as a United Reformed Church minister after he left the Prison Service, confessed to having attacked four more boys at the detention centre and dropped his appeal. He was sentenced to a further two years in jail.

Church spokesman the Reverend David Lawrence said last night: "As a community deeply involved in the care and nurture of tens of thousands of children week by week, we are deeply shocked and saddened by the events which came to light in the trial, and our sympathy and prayers go out to those who have suffered.

"In accordance with the high expectations placed on all those who serve the Church as ministers, when the Church learned in 2001 that allegations had been made against the Reverend Neville Husband relating to conduct before his ordination in 1994, Mr Husband was immediately suspended from his duties."

Husband, formerly of Snows Green Road, Shotley Bridge, Consett, County Durham, served at two churches in Gateshead.

Mr Lawrence said: "The constitution of the Church is drawn up within a framework laid down by Act of Parliament, and under its disciplinary rules, the Church may only finalise the removal of ministerial status when any charges in the criminal courts have been resolved.

"Regrettably, in this case, that restriction meant that Husband's appeal prevented the formal completion of the removal of ministerial status

" The withdrawal of that appeal will now allow the Church to proceed with the process."