.- Three men who attacked a priest in his own home have been sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison.
Paul Hands, 28, his brother Andrew Hands, 25, and Stephen Hinchcliffe, 25, all of Ashton-under-Lyne in Lancashire, UK, were each jailed for four years after admitting burglary and assault.
Fr Francis Wadsworth, 37, the parish priest of St Ann’s in Ashton-under-Lyne, was in court to hear sentence passed. He sat only feet away from his attackers during the trial at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, but said he had forgiven them for what they had done.
Fr Wadsworth had just returned home from visiting a parishioner in hospital last November when he answered a knock at the door.
The men forced their way into the house, demanding keys and cash. Fr Wadsworth was punched in the face, but fought back, biting one of his attackers.
He suffered bruising to his right eye and was left very shaken. They escaped with church funds.
Fr Wadsworth said: “I am happy that sentence has been passed on these three young men because it sends the message to the general public that crime does not pay.
“I hope and pray that as a result of what I’ve experienced, other victims of crime will come forward because they have seen the parish priest do it.
“I will get on with my life now and try to serve the best I can. I’m a lot more wary about answering the door.
“It certainly was not pleasant being in court and seeing them and their relatives and friends. I have to forgive them because that is the ethos of the Church.”
Story provided in partnership with The Universe