A HAMPSHIRE paedophile priest who was jailed for life for a catalogue of abuse against young boys, including raping an 11-year-old, has failed in a bid to reduce his sentence.

Perverted Simon Thomas made the challenge at the highest court in England almost seven years after being handed the life term by a judge who said he posed a danger to young boys that might never end.

Aged 44 at the time, he was the ordained minister in the United Reformed Church in Hythe, just a stone’s throw from his home in Atheling Road where he lived with his wife and children. Southampton Crown Court heard how the father-of-four had told scores of boys he met on the Internet that he was gay but in a heterosexual relationship with his wife.

He had made contact with more than 1,200 people over a four-and-a-halfyear period, during which his offences became more vile and his victims younger.

He took some to secluded woodland where he abused them. On one occasion he encouraged a young boy by taking him to McDonald’s before assaulting him.

Thomas, who pleaded guilty to 35 offences of grooming and abuse of children, was told he would be jailed for life with a recommendation he serves at least 16 years.

The sentence was then halved because of his early guilty plea, saving his victims from the pain of giving evidence in court.

However, Thomas, now 51, challenged that sentence at the Court of Appeal.

In written grounds he argued that, although the offences justified a long sentence, life terms should only be used for the most serious offenders.

The case was thrown out by appeal judge David Clarke, sitting with Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice Saunders, who said: “This case was, in our judgment, one in which the offences were very grave and the culpability of the appellant very high.

He said Thomas had a “powerful and uncontrolled” sexual interest in boys.