JESUS ARMY INQUIRY: Northamptonshire review board is not ruling out probe at a later date
The board that holds inquiries into allegations of sexual abuse in Northamptonshire says it will watch developments around the Jesus Army investigation "with interest".
Yesterday the Chronicle & Echo revealed that the founder of the religious movement here in Northampton, Noel Stanton, had been the subject of sexual, financial and spiritual abuse allegations.
The astonishing admissions were made by the current Jesus Army leader Mick Paine, during the organisation's annual conference in April.
He said: “The apostolic group of the Jesus Fellowship church have in recent months, from December 2016, received new allegations from members of our church concerning Noel Stanton – senior pastor between 1957 and 2009.
“The allegations are of financial abuse of individuals and spiritual and sexual abuse. We are not in receipt of all the facts, but we are seeking to move forward in bringing in a new culture that is distinct from the past."
Mr Stanton - a man known for his extravagant sermons often accused of running the Jesus Army like a "cult" - died in 2009 with hundreds lining the streets to pay him respects.
Further investigation by the Chron revealed that Northamptonshire Police looked into two sexual abuse allegations against Mr Stanton as far back as 2015, both of which were later dropped.
A spokesman for the Jesus Army confirmed that the allegations Mick Paine talked of in his speech to the Jesus Army conference were "new allegations", in addition to those in 2015.
It is not clear whether those new allegations have been passed onto police after conflicting statements were issued to the Chron by the Jesus Army and the police.
The spokesman for the Jesus Army said: "We are up to date with referrals and all allegations we are aware of have been notified to the police."
But a Northamptonshire Police spokesman said the force had not received any claims against Mr Stanton since early 2015.
The Chron had asked the Jesus Army for clarification, in particular as Mr Haines stated later on in his speech that these latest matters "were referred to the police in December 2016, who [...] decided that there is no further action for them to take."
The exact nature of the December 2016 sexual, physical and spiritual allegations were not revealed.
Though Mr Stanton is dead and cannot face criminal prosecution, the police have power to refer matters over to the Northamptonshire Children's Safeguarding Board (NSCB) for public review if the force deems it worthy of further investigation.
A spokesman for the NSCB did not discount the possibility of an inquiry into the Jesus Army at a later stage - though currently a number of further prosecutions against Jesus Army members are expected in the coming months.
He said: “We work closely with Northamptonshire Police and are aware of the comprehensive investigation they carried out into the Jesus Fellowship, including allegations involving Noel Stanton.
"However, any review carried out by the Northamptonshire Safeguarding Children Board would require a referral to us in the first instance and that has not has happened.
“We are not making any assumptions at this point in time as to whether or not there is any role for the NSCB here but we will watch developments with interest.”