July 2011

Church youth worker guilty of sexually abusing boys

A CHURCH youth worker who sexually abused two boys at his home has been jailed for two years.

Gilleon Prentice was involved with a youth group at Chelsea Baptist Church in Easton and would invite teenagers to his home for parties and molest them, Bristol Crown Court heard 

After Prentice left the role his victims, who cannot be named, made complaints to police. They were aged under 16 when the offences took place and are now adults.

Prentice, of Hudd’s Vale Road, St George, admitted two indecent assaults and was found guilty of a further four.

He would touch the youngsters sexually after luring them to his home, the court heard.

The 49-year-old, who later worked as a plumber for Bristol City Council, initially denied all but pleaded guilty to two sexual assaults on one lad and was found guilty of another four charges.

Jennifer Tallentire, defending, said: “The evidence is that this is something that arose out of a relationship of misplaced, genuine affection.”

Miss Tallentire said since the offences her client had been of long-standing good character.

She said: “The evidence suggests a period of offending at a point in Mr Prentice’s life and now his risk is minimum, if anything at all.

“He withdrew himself from youth work some years ago.

“He has continued to be part of the church but has not betrayed any sign of offending in this way.”

Sentencing Prentice, Judge David Ticehurst told him: “This case could be described as a tragedy.

“It is a tragedy for the victims who you abused and it is a tragedy for you, because you have built a good and responsible life. You do not represent a significant or serious risk in the future.

“There were particular circumstances that gave rise to these offences.

“You have built a law-abiding and good life for yourself. That life has been brought to an end.”

The judge handed Prentice a Sexual Offences Prevention Order, banning him from contact with youngsters for ten years.

He also told Prentice he must sign the sex offenders’ register for the next ten years.

After the sentence one victim said: “I think the sentence was far too light and it is difficult, knowing the stuff I know. The whole process has been a learning curve.”

The victims thanked the police for the support they received from the force.

Steve Bevan, founder of support group Adult Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse, said: “We gave one of the complainants one-to-one group therapy for one-and-a-half years. My job was to take him through the whole abuse, how it impacted on his life, and get him through it.”

Detective Constable Andy Coggins, who led the police investigation, said: “Gilleon Prentice is a manipulative man, who abused his position of trust and responsibility over a number of years while working as a church leader.

“He thought he had got away with these crimes but thanks to the bravery and courage of his victims, he has been brought to justice.

“I hope the sentence passed today gives them some closure and allows them to move on with their lives knowing he can cause no harm to others.

“I would encourage anyone who may have been a victim of rape or sexual assault, past or present, to come forward and talk to specialist police officers.”