June 2012

Evangelical church ‘pressured parents’ to try and cover up abuse of boy, 14, by pervert pastor

An evangelical church tried to cover up sexual abuse by one of its pastors by pressuring the parents of a 14-year-old boy not to report his attacks.

Youth leader James Hennah, 39, abused the boy after befriending him and his family at the church group which he ran in Bristol.

He was also a local magistrate and school counsellor and used his respected position in the community to win the trust of his victim.

Hennah first abused the boy at his parents’ home when the teenager became upset and he was supposedly praying with him.

He claimed to be ‘bringing him peace’ but instead slipped his hand inside the boy’s underwear and touched his bottom.

Hennah abused him again on a trip to Newquay in Cornwall, and on a third occasion persuaded the boy to strip in front of him on the pretext of showing off a new pair of boxer shorts.

Until his offences came to light he was a pastor with the Bristol Community Church where he ran their Energy programme for young people.

Elders at the church tried to cover up his abuse by refusing to believe the victim’s parents and urging them to drop their complaint about his behaviour.

Law graduate Hennah, of St George, Bristol, admitted two offences of sexually touching a child and one of voyeurism when he appeared before Exeter Crown Court.

Recorder Mr Peter Towler jailed Hennah for six months, suspended for two years and ordered him to go on a sex offenders’ course as part of two years supervision.

He also imposed a Sex Offences Prevention Order which will stop him having any unsupervised contact with anyone under 18 for seven years and ordered him to sign on the sex offenders’ register for the same period of time.

The recorder told him: ‘The aggravating features are that at the time of committing the offences you were in a position of very great trust so far as both he and his parents were concerned.

‘It was a much greater level of trust that an ordinary babysitter. You were one of the leaders of the youth group at church and a very, very close family friend. The boy described you as a mentor.

‘His father regarded you as a second dad. You were not only doing church youth work, you were also a counsellor at secondary schools in Bristol.

‘Quite clearly you knew exactly what the boundaries were of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

‘I accept you were a man of excellent character and are deeply ashamed and remorseful and you have lost your job at the church.

‘It seems to me you have some difficulties at the moment in accepting how it is you committed these offences. It is quite clear you did it for your own sexual gratification.’

The judge said the public would be best protected by Hennah staying in the community where he could undertake a course run by the probation service to address his behaviour and ensure he did not offend again

May 2012

Bristol church pastor admits sexually abusing boy, 14

A LAY pastor and school counsellor has admitted abusing a 14-year-old boy.

James Hennah, aged 39, was also a magistrate before being suspended when the allegations came to light in October

He admitted two offences of sexually touching a child and one of voyeurism when he appeared before Exeter Crown Court yesterday.

Hennah, of Rossiter’s Lane, St George, was a pastor with the Bristol Community Church, where he ran their Energy programme targeted at young people. The law graduate was a counsellor at two secondary schools and at Bristol University, where he also taught counselling.

He admitted two offences of touching a 14-year-old boy on the bottom between 2008 and 2009 and one of gaining sexual gratification by watching a young person taking part in a private act.

Hennah denied a fourth charge of sexual activity with a child, which dated from 2010 when the complainant was 15. The prosecution agreed to offer no evidence on that count.

Judge Graham Cottle adjourned the case for sentencing.

He ordered Hennah to sign the sex offenders’ register immediately and said a Sexual Offences Prevention Order will be imposed at the sentencing hearing next month.

He granted Hennah unconditional bail but warned him that did not mean he would avoid a jail sentence when he returns to court.

David Sapiecha, prosecuting, said the offences involved deliberate touching.

“We say this is an offence committed in gross breach of trust,” he added.

Robert Duval, defending, said he needed time for references and reports to be prepared.

Mr Duval said: “He is well aware of the powers of the court and has made no attempt to contact the complainant.”

Hennah was a prominent member of the Bristol Community Church in Kingswood until his arrest.

He was a counsellor at Bristol Grammar School, where the head teacher wrote to parents to reassure them that none of the allegations related to current or former pupils.

He was sworn in as a magistrate in October 2010 but resigned earlier this year.

Bristol Community Church, formerly known as Bristol New Covenant Church, was formed in the early 1980s and is based at Bourne Chapel on Waters Road, Kingswood.

After the Post first revealed details of Hennah’s arrest in February Justin Humphreys, of The Churches’ Child Protection Advisory Service, said: “James Hennah was relieved of all duties within the church pending the outcome of the police and children’s services investigations and has since resigned his position and is no longer an employee of the church.”