Salvation Army bosses have today said sorry after four of its members were convicted of the historical sex abuse of young girls.
The men – including a father and son – were all based at the Citadel in Blackpool’s Raikes Parade at the time of the offences, some of which dated back more than 40 years.
Between them they denied a string of 23 sexual allegations relating to two youngsters.
But three of the men were found guilty by a court – while a fourth man had already admitted his guilt before the trial began
Dean Juster, Director of The Salvation Army’s Safeguarding Department, said: “We unreservedly apologise for the pain the victims have suffered and our thoughts are firmly with them and their families. We are deeply concerned that these assaults took place and we hope that today’s guilty verdict will be a small step on a journey of healing for them.”
“As soon as we were made aware of the charges the action we took was to suspend the three individuals from our organisation. We worked closely with the police and provided access to our internal investigation records. We have listened carefully to this case and whilst we followed internal processes we had in place at the time we will ensure that we learn from any lessons in this case.
“We fully understand that it takes a lot of courage to come forward and we would like to reassure the public that any concerns they have around safeguarding will be investigated thoroughly and we will actively encourage victims to share their experiences with the police at the earliest possible stage, to ensure they have every opportunity to be heard.”
Trevor Worthington, 88, of Mayfield Avenue, Thornton, was found guilty of indecent assault by a majority jury after 21 hours of deliberations at Preston Crown Court.
His son Philip Worthington, 64, of Warwick Place, Blackpool, was found guilty of seven indecent assaults.
William Tompkinson, 70, of Raleigh Drive, South Shore - a married man who had been the treasurer of the Citadel – was convicted of 10 offences of indecent assault in the early 1970s.
A fourth man – Derek Jeffrey Smith, 67, of Hall Park Drive, Lytham – previously admitted indecent assault.
The men were all members – known as ‘soldiers’ – of the Salvation Army.
Sophie Rozdolskyj, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “These men abused their positions of high standing in the community to take advantage of two young and trusting girls.
“Three of the men consistently denied the allegations throughout the investigation and prosecution. However the CPS presented a strong case to the jury which included compelling evidence from the two women who were abused by these men.
“I would like to pay tribute to them for coming forward and giving their evidence to the court.”
Earlier in the case Richard Haworth, prosecuting, said the first victim, now in her 50s, was abused from the age of 11 by the defendants.
Tompkinson was accused of fondling the girl during a van journey, with the seriousness of his acts progressing over time.
When the girl turned 13 it was alleged Philip Worthington, who was also married, started abusing her, giving her lifts in his sports car.
It was claimed when the girl turned to Trevor Worthington to confide in him about the abuse by the other two men he perpetrated abuse on her in his car.
Another complainant came forward when the matters were being investigated by Lancashire Police.
Mr Haworth said: “Philip Worthington would approach her from behind, grab her and molest her. This carried on for a number of years, culminating in an incident on a car park when he sexually assaulted her.”
Judge Robert Altham has asked for pre sentence reports on the men and the case will be back before the court on March 27 when a sentencing date will be set.