Pastor jailed for holding female parishioners down so minister could sexually assault them

A pastor has been jailed for helping a church minister to sexually assault female parishioners.

Laurence Peterson, 59, blocked the doors to prevent escape and held the victims down as Rev John Wilson, 70, performed “grotesque” sexual exorcisms on members of the congregation. Peterson had frequently blocked the victims’ escape and barricaded one newly-wed bride inside a prayer room as Wilson sexually assaulted her while her husband desperately tried to enter the room.

A jury heard Peterson, of Eric Street, Keighley, may have also laced the women’s tea with drugs to make them more compliant as Wilson sexually attacked them in the name of performing exorcism. The attacks took place at the Liberty Pentecostal Church, in Keighley, West Yorks, over three decades and have left the victims mentally scarred.

A jury at Bradford Crown Court found Peterson guilty of counts of conspiracy to commit indecent assault and two charges of aiding and abetting Wilson to commit sex acts. Rev Wilson was jailed for 21 years earlier for a string of sex offences against six women. Mary Wilson, his wife, was found guilty of aiding and abetting her husband and was handed a 22 month suspended sentence. Mary, 79, sat in the public gallery today alongside Peterson’s supporters from the church for the sentencing.

Judge David Hatton QC told Peterson he was satisfied Wilson had been the principle offender. Judge Hatton said Peterson encouraged Wilson to carry out the bizarre ‘internal ministries’ to rid the women of demons and evil spirits.

“You encouraged the pretence, for pretence it was, on the jury’s finding, that the violation that was occurring to them was necessary in their spiritual interests and well-being,” said Judge Hatton.

Peterson was jailed for eight years and two months. He is on the sex offenders register and is subject to a sexual harm prevention order indefinitely. He is also banned from holding senior positions in religious bodies or perform ministries.