A 74-year-old retired vicar has been jailed for four years after being convicted of indecently assaulting four girls.

A jury at Reading Crown Court returned their final verdicts on nine counts of indecent assault shortly after 1pm on Friday June 6

Brian Spence, of Nursery Close, Hook, stood trial for nine indecent assault charges involving four girls aged between 10 and 15.

The jury of nine men and three women returned unanimous guilty verdicts on four counts on Thursday June 5 before delivering three majority guilty verdicts the next day.

On the final two counts the jury were not able to reach a decision. The Crown Prosecution Service said they did not want a retrial but asked that the charges lie on file.

The offences took place between 1994 and 1998 when Spence was vicar of St John the Baptist Church in Crowthorne.

He was more recently priest-in-charge at St Mark’s Church in Englefield before he retired.

Judge Nicholas Wood said: “You used and abused and exploited the trust placed in you to indecently assault four girls.”

Judge Wood said he took into consideration all of the things he had heard about Spence and the positive things he had done in his community.

He continued: “But there was another, deeper, dark side of you. You had, in the Nineties, an unhealthy sexual interest in children.”

Spence was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for life.