A vicar was behind bars today after admitting possessing more than 56,000 indecent images of children.
The Rev Richard Hart, 59, also pleaded guilty to taking, and making, indecent photographs of children.
The images possessed by Hart ranged from category one to category five, the most serious on the scale, Cardiff Crown Court heard.
The vicar admitted 12 charges of making indecent photographs between 1999 and 2007, and four of taking such images in July 1991.
He also admitted possessing 52,240 photographs under category one, 2,419 under category two, 684 under category three, 1,445 under category four and 44 under category five – a total of 56,832.
Hart, of Whopshott Avenue, Horsell, Woking, was remanded in custody by Judge John Curran, and did not apply for bail. He will be sentenced later this month.
Hart, who was not wearing his dog collar, carried a small canvas bag as he was led away to the cells.
He became vicar of the rural parish of Beguildy, near Knighton, Mid Wales, in 2001, and was suspended when the allegations came to light in January.
A pre-sentence report on Hart will be made before he next appears at Cardiff Crown Court, on September 25.
John Ryan, defending Hart, told the court: “He is realistic about the kind of sentence, and wishes to have his time start now.”
Speaking outside court, a Church in Wales spokesman said he was “saddened” by the offences.
Canon Robert Jones, diocesan child protection officer for Swansea and Brecon, said: “The Church in Wales is deeply saddened and shocked that one of its clerics has pleaded guilty to such very serious offences involving the use of indecent images of children.
“To us, it is of particular concern that these offences should have occurred at a time when he held a very responsible and privileged position in one of our church communities.
“Paramount at this moment in time, our thoughts and prayers are with the children who may have been directly or indirectly affected, and with the wider communities in which they live.
“As a church, we have co-operated with the authorities throughout the inquiry, and we are indeed very grateful to the police for the sensitive and thorough nature of their investigations.”
Canon Jones said pastoral care had been given to those affected. Two counsellors have been appointed to help people in the community.
He said: “The Church in Wales gives the highest priority to the care and protection of children and vulnerable members of the community and we regularly review our child protection policies and procedures to seek to eliminate the possibility of those over whom we exercise authority behaving in this way.
“No matter how stringent we try to make our child protection policies, these things do happen.”
Hart remains suspended from all clerical duties, Canon Jones said.
The matter is being referred to the Church in Wales disciplinary tribunal, which will decide if he can continue as a priest. No date has yet been set.