Ronald Johns was a high ranking and well respected member of the Church of England in Cumbria but at the same time he was befriending and abusing teenage boys. He's admitted 10 offences against three boys aged 14 to 17 between 1983 and 1991. They include gross indecency and indecent assault.
At the time of the offences he was a parish priest at Barrowdale and later a canon at Carlisle Cathedral. This morning Carlisle Crown Court has been hearing about the impact on his victims. One said he would have trusted Johns with his life but following the abuse he says a large part of his life died in his teens.
What makes this case even more shocking is the fact that the then Bishop of Carlisle, The Right Reverend Ian Harland was made aware of the allegations back in 1993 but decided not to report them to the police. Instead Johns was moved to a rural parish in Caldbeck although there's no suggestion that his offending continued there. The bishop has since died but the Church of England has apologised for what happened and says such a thing couldn't occur again. He has been sentenced to four years in prison.
The Venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of west Cumberland spoke on behalf of the Diocese, he said:
– Venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of west Cumberland
“A prison sentence can never be a matter of pleasure, nor can it put right wrongs that were done, but the sentence given to Ronald Johns today is just and fair and reflects the gravity of his offences.
“We know that those abused can be manipulated by the abuser so that they are the ones who end up feeling guilty, while the abuser attempts to excuse himself. The Diocese of Carlisle therefore hopes that Ronald Johns’ victims will feel that this sentence lays clear the truth: Ronald Johns did wicked things, which were not their fault or responsibility.
“We thank the police for all their work, those who deal with these very painful and stressful sorts of cases deserve our prays and support.
“In case anyone is affected by these matters, we have set up a special helpline with the NSPCC 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, where independent, confidential and sensitive advice can be sought. The number is: 0808 800 5000 (calls free from UK landlines). The County Council Social Care department can also offer help and advice, their number is 0333 240 1727 Or, of course, people can ring the Police directly on 101.”
Temporary Detective Inspector Gary McFadden, the investigating officer said:
– Temporary Detective Inspector Gary McFadden
“Today’s court appearance marks the end of a twelve month long police investigation which only began due to the bravery of the victims who had the strength to come forward and report what had happened to them all those years ago. This takes remarkable strength and they have remained our focus throughout the investigation. Many of those victims were in court today to see justice being brought by the sentence which was imposed.
“Johns abused his position of trust to commit heinous crimes against children - and now, almost 20 years on, he has received his punishment.
“Cumbria Police take allegations of sexual offences extremely seriously – no matter when the offences were committed. We would encourage any victims of crime to contact us and we will do all we can to support you and bring offenders to justice.”