AN ex-church minister and Oxfordshire magistrate who sexually abused vulnerable young boys for more than two decades has been jailed.

Robert Dando, of no fixed abode, showed little emotion as Oxford Crown Court heard the extent to which he had 'groomed' the boys, none of whom can be named for legal reasons, and forced them to engage in sex acts, sometimes on a weekly basis.

Dando had already admitted 13 counts of indecent assault and sexual assault against the seven victims between February 1985 and September 2009.

The 53-year old had used his high standing and position's of authority, including as a minister at Bicester's Orchard Baptist Church as well as a governor at Kings Meadow School, Bicester, to carry out the campaign of abuse, the court heard.

At his sentencing hearing yesterday, prosecutor Kim Preston said he had been a 'leading light' in the baptist church, a factor he had used to prey on his victims.

She said: "He is a man who it transpired used the church and his position within it to influence those who trusted him with their spiritual guidance and their most precious gifts; their children."

She told the court Dando would befriend the boys initially through their parents, lavishing some of their children with expensive gifts, first while he was training to be a minister in Cardiff in the 1980s before later carrying out the abuse in Bicester during between 1998 and 2007, and then London's Worcester Park Baptist Church.

One of the boys was taken out for expensive meals at London's Harrod's restaurant and bought gifts including a mountain bike, acts which prosecutors called 'grooming in its purest form' whereby Dando 'bribed' his victims into engaging in sexual activity.

Among the instances of abuse detailed to the court, it was revealed he also made threats, telling one of his victims he would make up stories of a sexual relationship between the boy and his brother if he told anyone about the assaults.

Many of the victims did not come forward and reveal the extent of the abuse until decades later because they felt they would not be believed due to Dando's good standing in the community, the court heard.

Speaking of one of the victims Ms Preston told the court: "He described vividly the shame and disgust he felt being under the will of the defendant.

"He felt there was no one he could tell about this and he felt he would not be believed."

Dando was first caught and later jailed in the US in the state of Virginia in July 2011 after a complaint from a 21-year old that he had abused him between 1995 and 1999 while aged between eight and 13.

During that investigation, a second victim also came forward and said Dando had abused him when he was aged between seven and eight, before UK officers were despatched and carried out their own investigation ahead of his extradition back to Britain, where he went on to admit all charges.

In mitigation, Christopher Knox said that his client was 'mortified' at what he had done.

He said: "He is seeking to make it clear that he has accepted what he has done, that what he has done is very wrong indeed."

He also urged leniency in light of his seven years already spent in prison in Virginia and said he had been 'seriously punished' during his incarceration.

Sentencing, Judge Ian Pringle QC said: "You were a leading light in the baptist church community.

"You were a minister, you became a magistrate, you were charismatic and you gained the trust of virtually every single person that you met within your community.

"For a period of over twenty years you proceeded to grotesquely abuse that trust and abuse a large number of children.

"Your method was to gain the confidence of those that looked after them, their parents, you would spend time looking after them, being someone very authoritative and someone that parents would trust.

"Your purpose was to sexually abuse them and that is what you did in various ways."

Dando was jailed for a total of nine years and four months and made subject to a sexual harm prevention order stipulating no contact with children indefinitely.