“What I didn’t want, and what the church didn’t want, was for them to get any form of police record. Our hearts went out to the parents. There was considerable sympathy for them.

“We are not talking about hardened criminals here.”

He added far from condemning, worshippers really appreciated the youngsters’ public apology at Sunday’s service.

He said: “There was no sense of going through the motions to get out of trouble. They were really sincere in what they said.

“What they did was serious and it has hurt a lot of people but they put it right big time.”

The young people have volunteered to return to the church and help with spring cleaning.

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