A woman who was sexually assaulted by Blackpool Salvation Army ‘soldiers’ as a child faced her abusers in court and offered her forgiveness.
Former Salvation Army treasurer William Russell Tomkinson, 70, and father and son Trevor Worthington, 88, and Philip Worthington, 64,were found guilty of a string of 23 sex attacks on two young girls at a Preston Crown Court trial last month.
A fourth former Salvation Army man, Derek Smith, 68 pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault.
One victim, now aged in her 50s, told the men how she had suffered an eating disorder, depression and anxiety following the assaults, which took place at the Salvation Army Citadel in Coronation Street, Blackpool, between 1971 and 1978.
She said: “I felt betrayed and found it difficult to trust anyone. I hope that finally I can start to live my life.
“Nothing can bring back those lost years.
“I’m relieved that this is at an end and I’m finally able to tell what happened, so I can tell you that I forgive you, as I would ask God to forgive me, because there is no peace without forgiveness.”
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was just 11-years-old when Tomkinson first assaulted her as they travelled in a van together from a Salvation Army event.
For several years, Tomkinson, Smith and Philip Worthington sexually abused the youngster when driving her around in cars and vans. On two occasions, Philip Worthington attempted to rape her.
Speaking at the sentencing at Preston Crown Court yesterday, Judge Altham said the child had been groomed by Philip Worthington ‘into sexual subservience’.
When she told his father, Trevor Worthington about the abuse, he too assaulted her.
In 2017 a second woman came forward to report she had been sexually assaulted by Philip Worthington between 1988 and 1991. The court heard how he would approach the woman, who was aged 16 to 19-years-old at the time, from behind and molest her.
On one occasion he attacked her outside a car, violently pushing her down, putting his weight on top of her and putting his hands up her blouse.
The judge said: “She was understandably terrified.”
In a victim statement, read by prosecutor Richard Haworth, she revealed that she had to attend counselling following the attack, and that it had affected her relationship with her husband and child.
She said: “I didn’t realise at the time how bad what he was doing to me was. It is only in later years you realise this isn’t on. This shouldn’t happen. The church is supposed to be safe, and it wasn’t.”
Trevor Worthington was found guilty of one count of indecent assault. The court heard how, when the first girl told him she was being sexually abused by other Salvation Army men, he drove her to a secluded area, touched her and exposed his genitals.
Judge Altham said: “He assaulted her at the very moment that she was coming to him for help. She told him that she had been touched by other people in the Salvation Army.
“He knew that she was coming to him for help. To respond to that cry for help with further abuse was beyond cruel.”
He added that Trevor Worthington refused to accept any wrongdoing and that he had lied throughout his trial, alleging that the teenager had tried to seduce him ‘when evidence showed this plainly wasn’t the case’.
Virginia Hayton, defending, said: “It was a single incident with no prior sexual history at all, and he has led a very positive life both before and since. It seems to have been a moment of madness.
“Trevor Worthington has been a music teacher for several years and a number of people have spoken very highly of him.”
Derek Smith, 68, pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting the teenager three times in his car when he was aged between 24 and 26-years-old. He admitted touching her and putting his hand inside her underwear on two occasions.
His victim addressed him personally from the witness stand.
She said: “Thank you Derek for helping me to believe in myself and realise that these memories are real. Thank you for standing up like a man and telling the truth.”
Joanna Rodkis, defending Smith, said: “The defendant wrote to her asking for her forgiveness while apologising for his behaviour, and she in her victim statement has had the courage to forgive him.”
Judge Altham said: “He had written some time ago at letter of apology which I am satisfied is sincere. More remarkable still is the victim’s response to it. This seems to me to be very powerful mitigation.
“There is work that can be done with Derek Smith to correct any residual faulty attitudes that he may have.”
William Russell Tomkinson, of Raleigh Avenue, Blackpool, was sentenced to four years in prison for 10 counts of indecent assault.
Philip Worthington, of Warwick Place, Blackpool, was convicted of four counts of indecent assault, indecency with a child and two attempted rape of the first woman, and five counts of indecent assault of the second woman. He was sentenced to eight years and three months in prison.
Trevor Worthington, of Mayfield Avenue, Thornton, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for one count of indecent assault.
Smith, of Hall Park Drive, Lytham, was given a 15 months sentence, suspended for two years with supervision, and must do 100 hours of unpaid work.
Tomkinson, Smith and Trevor Worthington were placed on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years. Philip Worthington was placed on the Sex Offenders Register indefinitely. All four men were given restraining orders banning them from contacting their victims.
What the judge said
Judge Robert Altham praised the victim for her bravery in coming forward. He said: “It is right to say that she is a highly intelligent, articulate and well educated woman, She has been unfailingly polite and accommodating even when her accounts have been challenged.
“In her various personal statements she showed a real sense of humanity in the way she approached the defendants.
“Above all she is an extremely courageous woman.
“Despite her formidable qualities as a person she was plainly vulnerable to the exploitation of cynical older men who cloaked themselves in their community and with their faith.”
Speaking on the second victim, he said: “I must say that I salute her courage in coming forward after so many years.
“I have no doubt that her coming forward provided some comfort to the first victim, and vice versa.”
What police said
Investigating officer Simon Morris, of Lancashire Constabulary’s public protection unit, said: “These men completely abused the trust that was placed in them, as members of the Salvation Army.
“To the outside world they appeared to be upstanding members of the church - when in fact they were anything but.
“Tomkinson, Smith and Philip Worthington sexually exploited their victim for their own satisfaction.
“When she eventually confided in Trevor Worthington – a man she ought to have been able to trust – he did not help her, instead using the opportunity to abuse her himself.
“The victims in this case have shown great courage in coming forward and reporting what happened to them more than 40 years ago and there is no doubt the abuse they suffered has had a lasting effect on them.”
“I hope today’s sentence brings some comfort and allows them to move on with their lives.”