Olwen Dudgeon A SALVATION Army major has been jailed for eight years for a string of sexual offences against a boy in his congregation more than 20 years ago.
At the time Graham Jones befriended the teenager, he was a captain and minister, at the Salvation Army Citadel in Wakefield.
In what was described by the judge as the "gravest breach of trust by a man of the church", Jones initiated sexual contact with the 14-year-old after they went out together selling copies of the War Cry, and he let him change out of uniform at his home.
Over an 18-month period he progressed from touching, to oral sex and eventually full sex, including on at least one occasion sex in the roof space at the Citadel.
Jones, 61, who, until his suspension, was working in the Salvation Army headquarters in London, was unanimously found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court yesterday of seven charges of indecent assault and two of buggery between 1982-1984. He was convicted by a 10-2 majority of a third charge of buggery.
He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, and barred from working with children.
Sentencing him Judge James Stewart QC said: "You groomed this boy for your own sexual gratification. You did this under the pretext of educating him in sexual matters so he was led in his ignorance to believe your behaviour was normal."
It began by him physically examining the boy on the pretext that he had the physique to be a sportsman. It then progressed gradually to more serious offences.
The judge said the youth did not want to do what was asked, but it was not an equal relationship, and his will was overborne.
"In my judgement your offences constituted the worst type of abuse of trust, you were a minister of the church to whom he looked for spiritual and education guidance.
"He was an intensely religious boy, he looked up to you, always addressed you as Captain and described to the jury his reverence for you and how he took it for granted because of your position in the church that what you were doing was right and appropriate."
The judge said it was only when the boy became 16 and realised it was wrong that he left the church, but he only felt confident enough to inform the police in November 2003.
Although 20 years had passed, an officer recovered a rag in the roof void of the Citadel, on which the boy's semen was found and traces of cellular material with a one-in-a-billion DNA match to Jones's.
The judge said the jury had seen through his account that the discovery was just a coincidence, as "an affront to common sense".
The complainant, now in his 30s, told the jury he was considering becoming a minister, but had lost his faith because of what happened.
He complied with the sexual suggestions because he trusted Jones, who was a mentor to him.
Offences happened at Jones's then home in Newton Close, Wakefield, and on occasions at the Citadel.
He said: "Graham Jones was a powerful figure within the community, within the church. The fact I still addressed him as Captain might suggest something in the nature of our relationship."
Since then, he told the jury, he had suffered from depression, flashbacks and nightmares. Only after years of counselling was he able to report it, seeking closure.
After the verdicts he said: "It was a matter of needing to bring about my own healing and work through some of the issues causing me problems as a result of what happened."
He also felt he should bring it to the attention of the authorities so other people would not be at risk.
In recent months, he said, he had also regained his faith which was another important stage.
He said: "I do not blame the Salvation Army as an institution or the Christian Church for what happened to me – this was an individual doing wrong."
A spokeswoman for the Salvation Army said a serious crime had been committed and Jones's membership would be terminated with immediate effect. Strict child protection policies were now in place.
She said: "The Salvation Army deplores such behaviour and abuse of position and has co-operated fully with the police's investigations."
Jones, who denied all the charges, moved from Wakefield to Weston-super-Mare in 1984.