April 2016

Former church worker who abused two young boys avoids prison – so he can “address his distorted thinking”

ward

A disgraced former church worker who has already served two jail terms for sex offences has escaped being jailed for a third time for indecency with two boys in the late 80s.

Francis Ward committed the offences between 1985 and 1991 at a time when he was a volunteer worker at All Souls Roman Catholic church in Kingsland Avenue, Chapelfields.

The court heard that his role brought him into contact with young boys at the church, and he took advantage of that to indecently assault his two victims.

At Warwick Crown Court he pleaded guilty to six charges of indecently assaulting one boy at the church and one of indecently assaulting another boy.

Despite his previous convictions for similar offences Ward, 65, of Granville Square, Edgbaston, Birmingham, was given a community sentence with supervision for three years.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC also ordered Ward to take part in a three-year sex offender group work programme and to register as a sex offender for five years.

Prosecutor Paul Mytton there was a single incident involving one boy who was aged about seven at the time when Ward lifted him up onto a pew and assaulted him.

The victim, who described it as ‘fumbling,’ said that after doing so, Ward then walked away.

That matter only came to light after the second victim finally went to the police in November 2014.

He revealed he had been ‘interfered with’ by Ward on a number of occasions at All Souls from when he was about eight years old, said Mr Mytton.

Usually Ward, who sometimes appeared to be angry to get the boy’s co-operation, would use the back of his hands to quickly touch the youngster.

The boy thought it was ‘weird’ but, being so young, did not really understand what was happening.

Mr Mytton said that during the period covered by the offences, Ward had also sexually abused another boy on a number of occasions while visiting his family’s home.

As a result of those offences he was jailed for 18 months in 1991 and dismissed from working at All Souls.

Between 1988 and 1999 Ward was a server at a Catholic church he attended in Handsworth, Birmingham, where he grabbed a girl and squeezed her breasts, which led to him then being jailed for six months in 2003.

Mr Mytton added that Ward also approached and indecently assaulted a woman he did not know in the street in 1999, for which he was put on probation for three years.

Following that victim’s complaint Ward was arrested and interviewed in December 2014, and again in January last year in relation to the other boy, but on both occasions made no comment.

Graham Henson, defending, said: “He does accept his guilt, which is half the battle. He says he cannot remember exactly what he did, but that if the boys said so, he did it.

“If he had been dealt with for these offences at the same time as he received the 18-month sentence, one wonders whether the sentence would have been very much longer.

“He has kept out of trouble for a sufficiently long time now that, to a large extent, that factor in itself in indicative that you should not give up on him and that it’s worth giving him a chance.”

Sentencing Ward, Judge Lockhart told him: “Between 1985 and 1991 you were a senior altar server at All Souls Church where you committed a series of serious offences against two young boys.

“It was a place they should have felt safe. It left (one boy) feeling let down, and he says it has ruined his faith.

“It was abuse in a position of trust, for which the starting point is 12 months, and it is aggravated by the fact that it was offending at a church.

“I have absolutely no doubt that you richly deserve a custodial sentence today. I could certainly justify one.

“However, I consider you finally need to address your offending. The only way it can be properly addressed is by way of you receiving a lengthy community order, and as part of that you will have to completer the community sex offender group work programme in order that I can better protect the public.

“You will have to address the distorted thinking you have plainly had during your life.”

The judge, who said he would reserve any breaches of the order to himself, also barred Ward from working with young people and imposed a sexual harm prevention order banning him from having unsupervised contact with any child.