Compassionate sentences in indecent
and sexual assault cases

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Helen Gavaghan, Bradford, Crown Court (UK), 28th September, 2017

HHJ David Hatton QC today sent John Wilson (70) down for 21 years, as a sentence for a number of indecent assaults, one case of sexual assault, and for conspiracy. His honour praised the victims for their courage in speaking in open Court of their ordeals. The judge said Mr Wilson's behaviour had been disgusting, and forbade Mr Wilson from ever again having a role as a minister of religion. Judge Hatton did, however, clarify that Mr Wilson might still worship and be a congregation member.

Citing St Matthew, and beginning his remarks with the Sermon on the Mount, Judge Hatton also handed down to Mrs Mary Wilson (79), Mr Wilson's wife, 22 months suspended for two years, as a sentence for aiding and abetting her husband. Mrs Wilson had been silent about her husband's behaviour. The judge said he would have sent her to prison, but for his awareness of her age, infirmity and physical illnesses. The judge accepted Mrs Wilson would face stigma.

Both Mr Wilson and Mrs Wilson were placed on the Sex Offenders' Register. Mr Wilson indefinitely; Mrs Wilson for 10 years. Both had been found to be "false prophets", said the judge.

Mr Wilson had been a pastor in one of the churches of The Assembly of God, from which he was expelled in 1993 for behaviour of the type for which he was today sentenced. Mr Wilson's crimes spanned the mid 1980s to 2010. The record shows that before the mid 1980s Mr Wilson was of good character.

A significant amount of money was paid in a civil case to one of Mr Wilson's victims around the time of his expulsion from The Assembly of God. Mr Wilson then went on to form another church, which became a nexus of further offences, leading to today's sentencing in Crown Court.

Mr David McGonigal QC, independent counsel for the Crown Prosecution Service, told the Court of the psychological, emotional and physical harm experienced by Mr Wilson's victims. The severe physical harm to some of the victims includes clinical levels of anxiety, or depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Many of them, thus, are under the care of consultant psychiatrists, and have had periods in hospital.

One victim chose to read her impact statement to the Court. Facing the dock she said she had come to think she was not worth the space she lived in, nor the air she breathed, but that God had not deserted her. "He's forgiven me so much, so who am I not to forgive?", she asked. Having read her statement this victim immediately left Court.

Mr McGonigal told the Court that Mr Wilson had abused his position of trust as a pastor.

Each defendant was represented by Queen's Counsel and junior and solicitors. The judge thanked all Counsel and solicitors for their work, and commended the officer in the case - who prefers not to be named - and her team, for their work in what the judge called a sensitive and complex case. The work has taken some years, and took place around the country.

A representative from a Manchester-based civil law firm for insurers was in Court.

Minor spelling correction by HG on 29/9/17.

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