Criccieth Family Church, Gwynedd

Criccieth Family Church, Gwynedd

Benjamin Thomas

 

(First posted 20.07,20)

Ben (Benjamin David) Thomas of Coed Onn Road, Flint, Flintshire (age 44 in September 2020) was a BBC news reporter and presenter, who left the broadcaster in 2007.  While at the BBC he worked as a presenter on Ffeil, the Welsh language news programme for young people, and on Wales Today.   After leaving the BBC he became a church minister. He worked as a Church Minister at Criccieth Family Church in Gwynedd from 2008 until 2019.

The offences

The assaults included indecent assault against children and adults and voyeurism, which took place between 1990 and 2019.  He was charged with 40 offences.   The offences occurred in North Wales, Shropshire, London and Romania.

The married father of three targeted the victims when they were asleep. Most were unaware that they had been sexually assaulted. Thomas recorded some victims as they used the toilet or bathroom, which he stated was for “his own sexual gratification”. On one occasion, Thomas placed a mobile phone in a wash bag so he could film boys urinating and taking a shower.

The youngest victim was aged 11 and the eldest 34. Many of the sexual assault took place at Christian camps and other related church events. One victim talked with Thomas before going to bed “about Jesus overcoming the devil”, before waking in the night “to the bed shaking” and “felt the blankets” tighten. The offences were against 33 victims.

Court

Ben Thomas first appeared in Llandudno Magistrates Court on Friday 19 June 2020.   He then appeared at Mold Crown Court on 17 July 2020, when he admitted 40 charges, as follows.

  • 10 counts of sexual activity with a child
  •  8 counts of sexual assault
  •  4 counts of attempted sexual assault
  •  9 counts of sexual assault
  • 7 counts of voyeurism
  •  2 counts of making indecent videos of children

Men and boys were the victims.  He was bailed for sentencing on 18 August 2020.

The judge told Ben Thomas he would be  given credit for his early guilty pleas but will face a “significant custodial sentence.”

Church statement

Following his conviction the Criccieth Family Church said, “his arrest last September came as a complete shock to the church, the community in Criccieth and beyond.       Ben came highly recommended to this church and his safeguarding checks were satisfactorily completed during his time with us. We are now devastated by the revelation of such sin and grieve over the pain caused to the innocent victims, the betrayal and deception”

Police statements

In November 2019, Detective Superintendent Gareth Evans said, “'The enquiry is both sensitive and complex and will take weeks to complete. 

'We have a team of specialist officers dedicated to the enquiry who are working with the safeguarding team from the church and our partners in Local Authorities.

'I would like to reassure our local communities that there are no ongoing risks you need to be worried about.'

On 19 June 2020 the North Wales Police said, “Further to our statement in November (2019) regarding an investigation linked to the Criccieth Family Church, North Wales Police can confirm that Ben Thomas, Pastor for the church appeared before Llandudno Magistrates Court today charged with 40 offences of a sexual nature.

'This is now an ongoing matter for the courts and it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.

'If anybody who has not already spoken to us feels they may have information of relevance to the enquiry please make contact using the following methods:

'Email OperationBlueQuartz@nthwales.pnn.police.uk or ring 101 and quote "Operation Blue Quartz".'

After the hearing on the 17 July 2020,  DC Lynne Willsher said: "Ben Thomas’ offending involved the serious sexual abuse of vulnerable young children by a religious leader. It is an awful breach of the trust placed in him by the victims and their families, and I cannot begin to imagine what impact the revelation of his offending has had on them.

"Today in court, Ben Thomas has admitted perpetrating 40 sexual offences. As a result of this, his victims have been spared the harrowing ordeal of a lengthy trial.

"North Wales Police are very grateful for the strength and courage shown by all victims and their families; this has greatly assisted our investigation to ensure justice has been done today.

"I am also grateful to the Evangelical Church and their safeguarding team for their assistance during the investigation."

Sentencing

Ben Thomas was bailed for sentencing on the 18 August 2020. However, prior to that hearing he asked to be remanded in custody. His request was acceded to by the judge. The request from Mr Thomas came after his barrister had asked for the sentencing hearing to be adjourned due to unforeseen circumstances. The sentencing hearing began on the 29 September 2020.  He was sentenced on 2 October 2020, being handed down a custodial sentence of 10 years and 4 months for sexually abusing children and adults.

Judge Timothy Petts told Mr Thomas, “For nearly 30 years until your arrest in 2019, you hid a dark secret-namely that you were a prolific sex abuser, the vast majority of your victims being teenage boys.

Your crimes started when you yourself were a teenager. They continued through to the time that you were a respected church leader and, to make matters worse, you abused that position to find and select potential victims-some of them in your own home”.