Keighley church minister faces long prison sentence for sexually abusing women over two decades

Pastor John Wilson. Picture: Ross Parry
Pastor John Wilson. Picture: Ross Parry

A church minister who sexually abused six vulnerable women has been warned by a judge he faces "a very substantial" prison sentence.

Pastor John Wilson, 70, carried out a series of indecent assaults under the pretext of being commanded by God to rid the complainants of evil spirits.

The sexual abuse took place over more than two decades while Wilson served at the Liberty Pentecostal Church in Keighley.

Following a trial lasting more than a month Wilson, of Shann Avenue, Keighley, was today found guilty on more than a dozen charges of indecent assault and further allegations of sexual assault and conspiracy to commit indecent assault after the jury deliberated for about 15 hours.

The abuse was said to have taken place between the mid-1980s and 2010 with victims, who cannot be identified, being assaulted during one-to-one "deliverance sessions".

At the start of the trial in July prosecutor David McGonigal told the jury that the case involved sexual abuse "in the name of religion".

"John Wilson was purporting to rid the women of evil spirits by sexually touching them," he said.

"It is the prosecution's argument that he was doing for his own sexual gratification.

"They were taken under the wing of Mr Wilson and he would blame the abuse on evil spirits inside of them. These were vulnerable women."

Wilson's wife Mary, 79, was also convicted on two charges of aiding and abetting him to commit indecent assault while his assistant Laurence Peterson, 59, of Eric Street, Keighley, was found guilty on similar aid and abet charges and further allegations of conspiring with Wilson to commit indecent assault.

At the end of the prosecution case Judge David Hatton QC directed the jury to find Wilson not guilty of rape and sexual abuse charges in relation to a seventh complainant.

The woman, who along with the other six complainants cannot be identified for legal reasons, had claimed that she had "a flashback" of herself lying on the floor like a rag doll with Pastor Wilson moving on top of her.

She alleged that the rape took place at his home, but also described the Liberty Pentecostal Church in Keighley as "a freaky church".

After hearing legal submissions Judge Hatton concluded that Wilson could not be properly or safely convicted on her evidence.

The judge remanded Wilson into custody to await his sentence on September 28.

His wife, who has mobility problems and other medical issues, and Peterson, were both granted conditional bail to the same date for the preparation of reports about them.