Jesus Army sex offender who was based in Northamptonshire sentenced for string of indecent acts directed at children in 1980s

A "predatory" man who indecently assaulted young boys while part of a Christian organisation has been sentenced at Northampton Crown Court.

Wednesday, 29th March 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:21 pm
The Jesus Centre, in Northampton, part of the Jesus Fellowship. Northamptonshire Police said their investigation had the "full support of the Jesus Fellowship."

Nigel Perkins, 56, from Cornwall, yesterday (March 28) pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency with a child under the age of 14.

His offences were carried out over six years in the 1980s while Perkins and his victims were members of the Christian community organisation The Jesus Army, now known as the Jesus Fellowship, based in Northampton.

Perkins held head in his hands as the court heard how he 'opportunistically' assaulted his victims while on walks or in the dormitory they shared, and how he convinced them not to talk about the incidents, causing long-lasting emotional damage to the boys.

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Perkins was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on March 28 for his string of indecent acts in the 1980s.

His Honour Judge Smith said: "You moved from one young boy to another. Some have called it opportunistic but I term it predatory."

The offences were carried out during Perkins' membership of the church and his victims were aged between 10 and 13 at the time.

The Jesus Army, now known as the Jesus Fellowship, is a Christian organisation based in Northampton, which in the 1980s encouraged its men, women and families to live in one of its community houses across Northamptonshire and surrounding counties.

His Honour Judge Timothy Smith said: "At a certain age, young members of the Jesus Army were invited to move in and live in one of these dormitories with other men. It was encouraged for young members to build relationships with the older members so they could learn Christian values.

Perkins was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court on March 28 for his string of indecent acts in the 1980s.

"Other practices at this organisation were visiting other community houses for Sunday lunch and to take part in community activities in the afternoon, including going on walks."

The court heard how Perkins would use these visits and walks, his position living with boys in dormitories and the trust he built with the victims and their families to attempt to 'satisfy his own sexual urges'.

On a Sunday walk at in Northamptonshire, one of Perkins' victims, aged 13 at the time, found himself alone in a field with him.

Perkins stopped, pulled his trousers down and began touching himself. He then reached out to the boy and began massaging his genitals through his clothing. This went on for a few minutes before the boy ran away.

Later, Perkins told his victim what they were doing was 'normal behaviour' and that he should not talk to anyone about it.

Judge Smith said: "The impact on this boy, as he said in his victim statement, was that he felt dirty. He did not talk about it, and as an adult said he took a 'pragmatic view' towards it, in that 'nothing really happened.'"

Another boy was targetted twice by Perkins in Warwickshire.

Judge Smith said: "You drove your car fast and invited them on rides. You sometimes bought them chips and boasted about your skills in martial arts.

"You abused the kind of friendship you may have had with them."

The boy found himself alone with Perkins when he went into a room to change his clothes. As he was changing his t-shirt, Perkins complimented the boy on his muscles. Then he reached out and stroked him from his abdominal area down to his thigh.

When his victim objected to this, Perkins' told him: "It's alright, it's me."

The second incident with this boy happened in the dormitory area when another man sleeping there left the room, leaving Perkins and the boy alone.

Judge Smith said: "You masturbated in front of him and told him to look at your penis and to touch it.

"He was reluctant. He pulled his duvet over himself and turned away from you. Then you turned him on his back to look at you and again asked him to touch your penis. He did not.

"You then pushed yourself forward and continued the act near his face.

"Your victim felt manipulated and ashamed. He tried to put things out of his mind, but the incident was a great knock to his confidence and caused him sexual confusion with long-lasting effects."

Perkins' next victim was aged between 10-11 and was abused while he was on a visit to a house in Sheffield.

He took the boy on a walk. When they reached a toilet block, Perkins 'dared' him to go inside with him and touch Perkins' genitals. When the boy refused, Perkins convinced him to carry out the act by paying him 50p.

Later, Perkins again cornered this same boy and put his hand down his own trousers. He then offered his victim more money to touch Perkins' backside as he masturbated.

Judge Smith said: "The victim in this incident felt guilty and ashamed. He felt he was the guilty party because he accepted money for these acts, when it is clear that you are the guilty party."

Perkins left the Jesus Army somewhere after his last offence. During later investigations into abuse at the organisation, Perkins denied ever abusing any children or committing indecent assault towards them.

As part of Operation Lifeboat carried out by Northamptonshire Police, which investigated allegations of abuse at the Jesus Army, Perkins was arrested at his cottage in Penzance, Cornwall.

He pleaded guilty to the five offences detailed above.

In sentencing, Judge Smith, said: "I'm told there were complications growing up and that as a young man you felt a lot of confusion. Your defence barrister has told me you are something of an introverted man who would not cope well within the prison environment. You have shown remorse for your actions and are aware of the damage you have caused.

"However, I feel anything other than a prison sentence is not something I can do today."

Perkins was sentenced to three years in prison and faces a lifetime on the sex offenders register. He will also have notification requirements for life, meaning he must inform police of any changes of name or address.

DCI Ally White, of Northamptonshire Police, said: “This court case forms part of Operation Lifeboat, the Northamptonshire Police investigation into non-recent allegations of abuse within the Jesus Fellowship (previously known as the Jesus Army).

“This operation, comprising a small team of detectives and a civilian support worker, began in 2015 and has had the full support of the Jesus Fellowship, who have fully assisted in bringing prosecutions such as this one and the others taking place this year.

“The investigation into Nigel Perkins began as a result of referrals submitted to the Jesus Fellowship leaders by current and former members. This was in response to a request by the Senior Leadership for any situations that have occurred in the past which may mean people have a grievance against the church.

“Perkins was a transient member of the Jesus Fellowship in the 1980s. The convictions for which he has now been sentenced relate to offences, during that time, of sexual assault upon boys whose families were also members.

“He was a predator who would befriend the boys and isolate them during communal events and gatherings and then assault them for his own sexual gratification. Although no physical injury was sustained, the emotional and psychological damage to those boys was extensive and persists in some even to this day.

“We would like to thank every person that came forward with information that helped to secure this conviction. It could not have been done without their willingness to support this investigation and their patience during the process. For some, this meant bringing up painful memories of a past they would prefer to forget and for that we commend them.

"Perkins’ conviction demonstrates there can be a successful prosecution brought against non-recent offences of this nature, in this instance 30 years ago.”

Jesus Fellowship National Team Leader, Mick Haines, said: “We are deeply sorry about the distress, emotional and mental suffering caused to the survivors of Nigel Perkins' abuse. His conviction and this sentence is entirely appropriate and we applaud the efforts of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service."