A former care home worker and Catholic priest who sexually assaulted vulnerable children in his care made "malicious and false" allegations about his victims to cover up his own horrific abuse, a court heard.

Philip Temple, 67, sexually abused 12 young people over a 25-year period beginning in 1971 while he was employed at children's homes in Croydon and Wandsworth, and later as a priest in north London.

Between 1971 and 1977 Temple, of no fixed address, worked first at Woking Close children's home in Barnes, then at nearby Hartfield House, before moving to Shirley Oaks Children's Home, where he worked as a senior housefather at Rowan House.

Over those six years he "used his position of authority for his own pleasure" to abuse nine boys and one girl, Woolwich Crown Court heard today.

After carrying out his horrific assaults, which made one victim want to "cry out in pain", the "extremely skilled liar" sometimes even entered false allegations of sexual activity between children in social services records to cover up his own crimes, prosecutor Jonathon Polnay said.

Despite being suspended as a social worker in 1977 after staff at Shirley Oaks became suspicious of his behaviour with other children, Temple later went on to abuse two boys at the parish of Christ the King church in Cockfosters after becoming ordained as a Catholic priest.

In court today one of his victims at the church read out a harrowing victim impact statement and said he and other victims could "never escape" what Temple did.

The paedophile pleaded guilty yesterday to 27 counts of non-recent sexual abuse, as well as two counts of perjury.

At the start of sentencing proceedings against Temple today, Mr Polnay said: "His job was to look after some of the most vulnerable children in London... indeed, he was paid to look after them.

"This was the grossest degree of abuse of trust."

The court heard how, at both care homes, Temple would enter the bedrooms of children while they were sleeping before waking them and subjecting them to sickening abuse.

At Shirley Oaks, which was run by Lambeth Council, the paedophile preyed on one boy who had been placed at the home because he was a previous victim of sexual abuse. 

The children's home is currently under the spotlight of a public inquiry, which began this year, into child sex abuse at Lambeth Council and other public bodies. 

In a statement read to the court by Mr Polney, the boy described how once the abuse began he "would segregate myself from other children and not join in any games because I was worried they would find out what happened to me".

He added: "I thought it must have been my fault... I've spent most of my adult life blaming myself for what happened. I think it must have been my fault."

The traumatic memories of Temple's abuse had led him to seek solace in drugs and alcohol in later life, the victim said, and severely impacted on his relationship with his daughter.

He said: "[I was scared I would] make her a bad person.

"I try to be positive but I find it very hard to move forward with my life."

Echoing a number of the victim's in their descriptions in trying to cope with the fallout of their trauma, he said: "I feel like I have been robbed of my childhood. Sometimes when I see other children in the street I wish I could go back in time and be a child again."

Temple is the fourth former employee of Shirley Oaks care home to be convicted of child abuse, following a decades-long campaign involving residents who have fought to expose a paedophile ring that operated there.

Temple was arrested in July last year. He is due to be sentenced this afternoon.