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Jesus Army in the news following arrests

The Northampton Chronical & Echo yesterday reported that Northamptonshire Police have released a statement confirming they are investigating a number of allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse within the Jesus Army.   The Jesus Army, also known as the Jesus Fellowship, is assisting police with their enquiries relating to alleged incidents in the late 1970’s to the late 1990’s.

The Jesus Fellowship was founded in 1969, when Noel Stanton who, at that time was the lay pastor of the Bugbrooke village Baptist chapel near Northampton, was inspired by a spiritual experience.

As the new church grew it became more charismatic in nature and adopted some of the more obvious traits of a religious sect. Members were required to contribute financially to the church and families lived a communal existence within the confines of the church, rarely interacting with the outside world except for the purpose of spreading the faith. Celibacy was required of all single members, a policy of strict sexual segregation was imposed and the Fellowship tolerated no flirting.

Concern was raised about the Jesus Fellowship's corporal punishment practices, involving the use of a rod for juniors and a wooden spoon on infants, which Noel Stanton defended on an Anglia TV documentary in June 1989. Parents who objected to the use "the rod", complained of the pressure being applied to them to do so.  It was also said the day to day regime was exceptionally harsh and often amounted to servitude, particularly for the young children who were expected to work long hours with little sleep.

At least one member of the Jesus Army, who had a criminal record for rape and indecent assault, was convicted in 2004 for repeatedly beating two children on the hands and soles of feet with a weapon made from three bamboo canes tied together. His explanation at Court was that, "he believed the boy was evil, possessed and 'going to the devil'".

Several members have been convicted over the years of indecency, indecent assault of children, one of incest and two of making indecent photographs of children. In one case of child abuse which spanned three years, the Jesus Army member was also convicted of rape.  In Court his Counsel advised that, "He retains his strong faith and connection with the church. He will be welcomed back there when he comes out of prison".

The Jesus Army has yet to acknowledge liability for the misdemeanours of the past.  However, it is encouraging to know that Northamptonshire Police are investigating a number of allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse involving members of the Jesus Army.  Moreover, the Jesus Army has asked for disclosures of any abuse which might have occurred in the church, or during its activities, since its foundation in the 1970’s. In a move similar to the process undertaken by the Methodist Church, Mick Haines, a Jesus Army national team leader, has acknowledged that “openness and transparency is very important.”

Robsonshaw Solicitors LLP is representing a number of victims of sexual and physical abuse suffered whilst they were members of the Jesus Army.  Partner Robert Shaw who is leading these claims comments, “We are already investigating a number of civil claims against the Jesus Army.  If you, or a family member suffered physical or sexual abuse whilst part of the Jesus Army please get in touch with us.  We are interested in speaking with anyone affected by mistreatment whilst living with the Jesus Army and we would be pleased to talk to you on a confidential, no obligation basis”.

Robsonshaw Solicitors LLP specialise in sexual abuse compensation claims and can offer no win no fee arrangements.  Please call Robert direct 01392 345333 or email him on robert@robsonshaw.uk to discuss your potential claim.