Preacher in religious sect assaulted boy

A travelling preacher in a religious sect has been jailed for a year for indecently assaulting and attempting to indecently assault a young boy, who was also a member of that sect, in the 1970s.

The court was told Robert Noel Tanner, aged 74, Hillcrest, Crush, Glanmire, Co Cork, had assaulted the boy while he was staying at the home of the victim’s parents in the 1970s.

In sentencing the pensioner, Judge Stephen Fowler said it was a “gross breach of trust, not to mention the hypocrisy of preaching to the sect and child by doing this behind their back”.

The parents were also members of the sect and the preacher was in his early 30s when the offences occurred and the boy was in his early teens. It was customary for a preacher to stay in the homes of other members of the sect, the court heard.

At Dungannon Crown Court, the defendant, who has Parkinson’s disease, admitted both charges for the offences, which happened on dates between December 31, 1973, and January 2, 1975.

The court heard the defendant had asked the boy “at what stage does the seed start coming”.

The boy thought the preacher was referring to a religious term.

However, the defendant then touched the boy’s private parts and masturbated him.

He then told his victim not to tell anyone and he tried to abuse the boy again, when the latter was lying on the bed and reading a child’s encyclopaedia, but he was unable to do so, as the boy lay face down on the bed and the defendant was unable to turn him over.

Judge Fowler said the defendant later tried to say the boy had been reading pornography.

He wrote to the parents of the boy 10 years ago, admitting his guilt and he apologised for his actions.

Judge Fowler said it was clear the victim had suffered significantly and continued to suffer significant psychological effects.

The judge said the defendant had previous convictions in the Republic of Ireland, but his early plea had saved the victim the ordeal of giving evidence before a jury.

Judge Fowler said Tanner’s remorse was genuine and not born out of self-pity and he noted his age and his Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to a year’s jail sentence, Tanner was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders’ Register and was not allowed to be near children or vulnerable adults for a period of a year.

Pensioner jailed for year for indecently assaulting young sect member in 1970s

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