A FORMER priest has been jailed for a string of historic sex abuse and child cruelty offences.

Jonathan Graves was this morning handed the 12 year prison sentence after being found guilty of 12 offences last week.

The ex-clergyman at St Luke’s Church at Stone Cross stood trial at Hove Crown Court after he was charged with 17 counts of abuse dating back to the 1980s.

After the nine-day hearing, the jury convicted Graves of sexual offences - including indecent assault, gross indecency and child cruelty - against two boys he knew while he was a Church of England priest.

After deliberating for around four hours they also cleared him of five other allegations, including four against the boys and an allegation he indecently assaulted a 50-year-old woman in 2002.

The 60-year-old, of Jervis Avenue, Eastbourne, sat quietly as he learned his fate.

Detective Inspector Jon Gross branded his offences "despicable", adding: “The past has caught up with Jonathan Graves. The evidence in this case has revealed how he used his position as a Reverend to select his victims and befriend them before callously abusing them for his own sexual gratification. His crimes have had a lasting impact upon those he abused. The hurt caused by the sexual abuse itself has undoubtedly been compounded by the psychological scars of the abuser being a trusted, and influential figure in each of the victims’ lives.

"I have enormous admiration for the courage the victims have shown in coming forward to the police, and for remaining steadfast in seeing this matter through to conclusion. I hope these verdicts bring some form of closure to them."

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss looked into the case in 2010 as part of a review for the Diocese of Chichester over concerns about several priests. The report was sent to Sussex Police in 2011. Police launched Operation Perry to investigate three priests, Graves of which is the last.

Robert Coles and Gordon Rideout, have already been convicted in separate trials and jailed.