September 2003

Sex offenders list man asked church for forgiveness

An Epping man who has been placed on the sex offenders register wrote a letter to the members of his church offering his “sorrow and repentance” and asking for “forgiveness and restoration”.

Ian Richardson, 51, of Springfield, was cautioned by police in July after he was arrested in Operation Ore in February.

Mr Richardson’s credit card details were found on an internet paedophile site by the FBI four years ago and traces of four indecent images of children were found on his computer after his home was raided by police in February.

After an investigation, Mr Richardson accepted a caution for offences relating to indecent images of children. His son Anthony, 23, was cautioned for possession of an indecent image.

Since breaking the story last week, the Guardian has been sent a copy of an open letter written by Mr Richardson to members of Theydon Bois Baptist Church at the beginning of July.

Part of the letter states: “I have confessed what I can, by the grace of God repented and reformed my life with God’s help, and am receiving counselling and support from two outside sources to help me survive and grow.”

He also said: “… I can only offer again my sorrow and repentance, and ask for forgiveness and restoration such as I believe I have already received from our Lord.”

Former baptist minister Mr Richardson maintains he has never sought child pornography on the net and he said he still had no idea how his details got onto the website.

He maintains the indecent images got on his computer after he unwittingly clicked on a French website while searching for a book the night before his and his son’s arrest.

He told the Guardian this week that the letter was written purely to try and reunite the church and was not an admission of guilt.

“It is not to be taken as an admission of anything in particular. That would be a mis-reading,” he said.

Mr Richardson said that after the church was informed of the situation, rumours began to spring up and the unity of the church faltered. He said the letter was aimed to try and help the situation and aid reconciliation.

He said: “I know it’s possible to read it as me putting my hands up as guilty as charged but that’s not what I wanted to say.

“I felt though there was not very much I could do but maybe I could do something to calm people down.”

A police spokesman said: “A caution has to be prefaced by an admission of guilt. A caution is a long-standing method of disposing of cases without taking them before the courts.”

Mr Richardson and his son have also been placed on the sex offenders register for five years.

Mr Richardson maintained he accepted the caution as he felt he had no way of proving he had not used his card in this way and because he did not want a court case.

The Richardson family have already had their membership of Theydon Bois Baptist Church suspended, and a decision on their future will be taken later this month.

A statement from minister Rev David Penegar said: “I can confirm that the church membership of the Richardson family was suspended following the outcome of the criminal proceedings against Ian and Anthony Richardson.

“Immediately I became aware of their arrest in Operation Ore, we put safeguards into place to ensure the integrity of the Church, and to safeguard our children and vulnerable adults.

“Following the issue of an official caution by the police to both men and the placing of their names on the sex offenders register for a period of five years, the question of their membership of the church will be considered at a church meeting to be held later this month.

“This necessary action is being taken by the church to emphasise that this is a safe place for people to come and worship God. We have in place a children protection policy, which is in line with the recommendations of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.

“We have consistently offered pastoral care and advice to the Richardson family. I wish to place on record that we have full confidence in the actions of the police and the child protection authorities in this case.”

The family are currently attending a church in Epping and Mr Richardson said it was very likely they would resign their membership before the church meeting at Theydon Bois.