A WIRRAL catholic priest with an "unhealthy interest in adolescent boys" who repeatedly sexually abused an underage boy has been jailed for five years.

Father Peter Hooper, parish priest at St Luke's The Physician in Bebington, was caught in a sex act with the boy in the diocese house where Hooper lived.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the offences came to light after he was abusing the boy while a social gathering at the house in Church Road was winding down on May 15 this year.

Robert Jansen, prosecuting, said that a man called Matthew Howard, who was living at the address, as he had for some years, walked past the kitchen window, and Hooper and the boy performing a sex act on eachother.

Mr Jansen continued: "Whilst looking through the window it seems the defendant saw Mr Howard who simply shook his head in disbelief at what he had seen going on.

"Afterwards Mr Howard asked the defendant what he was playing at."

He replied to Mr Howard: "I don't know what to do. I've been seduced by a 15-year-old boy."

Mr Jansen said Hooper was arrested and admitted carrying out sex acts on the boy, though he said they did not have full sex and this was accepted by the prosecution.

He told detectives the boy made sexual advances and described him as 'manipulative.'

He said he felt 'mentally raped' by the boy.

Hooper, 55, admitted 10 offences of sexual activity with a child relating to up to twenty incidents.

he boy told the police that they had grown close after he told Hooper, a trained counsellor, about problems he had had in his life.

He said at one stage he went to hug the priest who then kissed him on the cheek, and then moved to kiss him on the mouth.

The sexual contact followed in the boy's family home and at the diocese house.

The hearing was attended by more than a dozen supporters in the public gallery, including two priests.

Gerald Pachter defending, said Hooper accepted “one hundred per cent responsibility” for what happened.

“He feels great shame at the damage he has caused the church.

"He is very well thought of. That is clear from the turn out today and the many references from clergymen, parishioners and friends.

“He admits he is homosexual. Since his 20s he has tried to repress it because of his faith but he has failed."

Mr Pachter added that Hooper was now the subject of daily verbal abuse by fellow prisoners and had been attacked in the prison chapel.

Judge David Aubrey QC said: "You have betrayed your religion, you have betrayed your church, you have betrayed your parishioners.

"More significantly you have betrayed your victim who was just 14 and 15 years of age and vulnerable, and in truth he was in your care while in your home and you were in his.

"In my judgement you have an unhealthy interest in adolescent boys as this case has demonstrated.

"You have failed in your responsibilities and duties as a Catholic priest. You have failed everybody who had placed their trust in you.

"You knew when you crossed the boundary. You wished to cross the boundary. Your actions were a gross breach of trust.

"You have fallen from grace and lost your ministry. The offences are so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is justified for them.

The judge ordered him to sign on the Sex Offenders Register for life, imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order and banned him from working with children.

Rt Rev. Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, said: "I wish to express today both the sorrow and the horror felt within the Catholic community at these offences ands the betrayal of trust involved.

"There can be no place in the priesthood for those who harm the young."