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An Uckfield man has been convicted of sexual offences against two boys. Christopher Howarth, aged 68, retired, of Rocks Park Road, Uckfield, was convicted at Hove Crown Court on Friday (17 July) after a ten-day trial,
He was found not guilty of five offences
He had previously pleaded guilty to two other sexual offences against one of the boys.
Howarth, who had been on court bail during the trial, was remanded in custody for sentencing on 7 August.
Howarth was convicted of 16 offences against one of the boys, between 2005 and 2011 when the boy was aged between 10 and 17.
They were; three of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity; eight of sexual activity with a child; four of sexual assault on a child; and one of taking indecent photographs of a child.
He had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to causing or inciting a child to take part in sexual activity, and during the trial before the jury retired, he also pleaded guilty to an offence of taking indecent photographs of a child, both in relation to the same boy.
He was found not guilty of two offences of assault on a child by penetration, and one of sexual activity with a child, all in respect of this boy.
Howarth was also convicted of 10 offences against the other boy, between 2004 and 2009 when the boy was aged between 11 and 15.
They were; four of sexual activity with a child; four of sexual assault of a child under 13, and two of causing a child to watch a sexual act.
He was found not guilty of two offences of causing a child to watch a sexual act in relation to this boy.
The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an investigation started by specialist Sussex Police child protection detectives in 2012.
The investigation started in December 2012 when police were first told of allegations by the younger boy. Enquiries were made and Howarth was arrested in the same month.
The second boy came forward with allegations during 2013.
Detective Constable Amy Green said: "Howarth came to know the boys in his capacity as a lay priest at Holy Trinity CofE church in Uckfield, when they were very young, and befriended them over several years, giving support, but also offending against them. He was suspended by the Church as soon as the allegations came to light.
"Some of the offences against both boys took place in the study at his home, and one of the boys was also assaulted in Howarth's office at Uckfield Community Technology College, where he was deputy principal until his retirement eight years ago.
"The Diocese of Chichester and the College have given us full co-operation throughout this investigation.
"The two victims, now adults, gave evidence by live video-link into the court and were subject to robust cross-examination. Their evidence clearly convinced the jury of Howarth's guilt on 26 of the 31 indictments. He had already pleaded guilty to two other offences against one of the boys.
"This was a complex and sensitive case, but it illustrates once again the way in which we will always take seriously such allegations, refer victims to sources of support and counselling, and where appropriate will recommend prosecution."