April 2000

Salvation Army sex pest jailed

The Salvation Army has tightened up procedures after a former captain was jailed for nine months for indecently assaulting a teenage girl in York.

A court heard that Martin Howe quoted Bible passages to the 16-year-old Salvation Army regular before undressing and spanking her.

Howe, 39, who admitted the indecent assault, and another elsewhere, was jailed for nine months on each charge at Portsmouth Crown Court, the sentences to run concurrently.

The court was told that he had gained the trust of the girls when he served at Salvation Army citadels in York and Bridgwater, Somerset.

Judge David Selwood said Howe had acted out his fantasies, disguised under the cloak of some sort of religious ritual, and the matter was sickening.

“You breached the trust of your congregation, your colleagues, of parents and of these two girls. It’s hard to think of greater breaches of trust.”

Today, a Salvation Army spokeswoman told how the organisation deplored the behaviour and abuse of trust by Howe, who was based at York in 1997.

“We have tightened our procedures for dealing with this kind of incident. We also have a child protection officer in place now for the Salvation Army to oversee any incidents of this nature, in liaison with the police and social services.”

Stephen Clayton, mitigating, told the court that the assaults themselves were not overly serious although Howe had breached the trust of the two girls. He said Howe, of Frater Lane, Gosport, had shown much remorse and co-operated with the police.

He added: “He has lost most of what he had in life. He has lost his job after 15 years service. He has lost the chance to complete his MA in theology and he has lost the respect in which he was held in the Salvation Army. He has also lost, in all probability, his wife. Their relationship is very strained and there is probably no future in it.”

Angus Robertson, prosecuting, said that in York, Howe had offered the 16-year-old a lift home one evening and then went into her bedroom after reading her passages from the Bible.

“He asked her to take part in a punishment procedure. He asked her to remove her trousers.” He said the girl felt really sick after that incident and thereafter sought to avoid the defendant.