A FORMER high ranking cleric caught downloading indecent images of children for the third time was jailed for 20 months.

Twice-married Paul Battersby had also been found with a shoebox full of children’s clothing and had even written a fantasy about child abuse.

A court heard that he had carefully documented the internet search terms he had used to find the images and had unusually taken the trouble to categorised his collection of photos and videos.

Battersby worked in various church roles in the North including the priest at St Peter’s Church in Darwen and later part-time vicar at St Marks in Blackburn.

The 68-year-old who was later elevated to the Church of England’s National Youth Officer and representing the church internationally, was told by a judge that he had no option but to send him straight to prison.

Recorder Andrew Long said: “The references provided tell of a man with many gifts and accomplishments and those gifts and accomplishments have been betrayed and undermined by your own sexual appetites.

“There may come a time when those appetites are regarded as some form of illness or addiction. At the moment they are regarded as a dangerous perversion of normal sexual desires.

“It is the third time you have been sentenced for similar offending and it is perfectly clear you are unwilling or unable to control the sexual attraction you feel towards children.”

Battersby, who has been living in a rented flat in Old Hall Street, Liverpool, pleaded guilty to six offences involving downloading a total of 1,730 images of children in all three categories of seriousness between November 2014 in January this year and possessing extreme and prohibited images.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Battersby had been receiving help for his problem since his release from prison after his second such offence and it had wrongly been believed that he would be able to control himself.

Iain Criddle, prosecuting, said Battersby was arrested after police raided his city centre flat on January 23 and seized his laptop, tablet and a USB stick and when analysed the images were found.

“The images included those of very young children. Equally worryingly other items were recovered and from his computer was a fantasy which appears to have been penned by him about child abuse.”

The court heard that he received a 34 week suspended sentence in 2008 for making child porn images and the next year got a conditional discharge after breaching an order by using the online name Tank Battersby instead of his proper name.

He received eight months imprisonment in 2010 for more child porn offences.

Peter Turner, defending, said that Battersby had been attending the NHS Merseycare on a regular voluntary basis for help.

The university educated curate was an active member of Amnesty International. After working as a youth officer in the Carlisle diocese he was elevated to Church House in London as the national youth officer working with the General Synod Board on education.

Following the death of his 10-year-old son he gave up that role and became parish priest in 1990 at St Peter’s Church in Darwen and later part-time vicar at St Marks in Blackburn and further education officer dealing with the training and appointment of chaplains including in prison.

Battersby, who was divorced from his first wife in 1995, was working at St Ambrose in Leyland when he committed his first offences.

His first wife has only spoken to him once since and his second wife no longer has anything to do with him. He has lost contact with his two surviving children and has never met his three grandchildren. His sister, a retired missionary, is the only person who keeps in touch with him.

“In his own words he has sinned significantly,” said Mr Turner.

He had taken courses to deal with his problem until a few months before these latest offences began. It had been wrongly believed that after the courses he had the capacity to control himself.

Mr Turner said Battersby had destroyed some of his computers with a screwdriver “and had serious conversations with himself about what he was doing and sought forgiveness from God” but unfortunately “relapsed and relapsed.”

“He is not a stupid man, he is an intelligent man who has become incredibly lonely….He is simply someone who should not have access to the internet for a considerable time if at all and should not have contact with children and he recognises that,” said Mr Turner.

A senior cleric has taken him under his wing and the defendant has taken the preliminary steps to joining the Anglican Franciscan order with its vows of chastity and obedience.

The court heard that the Church of England is likely to fund through two of its charities further help for him with Merseycare NHS.