A Jehovah’s Witness who used his position in the Church to sexually abuse young children walked free from court yesterday.
Michael Porter was entrusted with children as a ministerial servant of the church in Clevedon, Somerset. At Bristol Crown Court yesterday he admitted 24 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency on children, one of whom was an 18-month-old baby, over 14 years.
Judge Tom Crowther decided not to jail Porter and instead issued a three-year community rehabilitation order after the court was told that he had undergone therapy.
Porter, 38, was also banned from working with anyone under the age of 18 and placed on the Sex Offenders Register. Yesterday, as police said they were considering an appeal, Porter’s sister, Tina Hughes, led criticism of the sentence.
“He blamed his childhood for the attacks, which was a lie, but the judge ate it all up,” Ms Hughes said, adding: “There’s no justice for the victims. No closure. He had no right to leave that courtroom.”
Ms Hughes described her brother as an “evil monster”, who “can’t have a soul”.
Porter, who was supported in court by his wife, gave himself up when one of his victims threatened to go to police. He moved from Clevedon to London in 2000, where he is thought to be an elder at the Mill Hill Kingdom Hall, Barnet.
Dan Norris, a Labour MP who has campaigned for the introduction of a US-style “Megan’s Law” letting communities know the whereabouts of convicted child sex offenders, said yesterday’s decision would increase the public perception that judges have become out of touch.
Mr Norris, a former child protection officer, said: “It’s deeply disturbing that a man that has committed serious offences against children has avoided prison. This judge’s decision will reinforce the public view that child sex offenders are treated far too lightly and that our judges are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.”
Norman Brennan, founder of the Victims of Crime Trust, branded the sentence as a licence to offend.
“If we’re to reassure parents and send out a strong deterrent message to paedophiles, then those convicted should face prison sentences that both punish and deter others,” he said.
“When the judiciary fail to impose such penalties they give paedophiles a licence to reoffend.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses who fail to live by the religion’s strict moral code and beliefs run the risk of being thrown out of the congregation, which is called “disfellowshipping”, the Witnesses’ highest form of discipline.
A spokesman for Somerset and Avon Police said: “We are pleased that the person responsible for these serious offences has been brought to justice and hope it will provide some sort of closure for the victims.
“It is too early to say at the moment whether there will be an appeal. This will be discussed with the CPS. There are a large number of victims to consider, many of whom just want to draw a line under the whole matter.”<
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