BBC presenter, 44, jailed for ten years for sexual assault

BBC Wales presenter turned pastor, 44, is jailed for ten years for sexually assaulting 33 men and boys while they slept at church camps and filming them urinating and showering during 30-year reign of terror

  • Benjamin Thomas, 44, of Flint, of North Wales, began his crimes aged 14 or 15
  • He preyed on 33 victims in North Wales, Shropshire, London and Romania
  • Most of married father-of-three’s victims had ‘no idea’ of his sexual assault
  • Sentenced to 10 years and 4 months in prison and six years on extended licence
  • Given sexual harm prevention order and will remain on offenders register for life

A former BBC presenter and church pastor has been jailed for ten years and four months for carrying out 40 sex offences against 33 men and boys over three decades. 

Benjamin Thomas, 44, of Flint, preyed on his victims – most of whom were asleep at the time – for his own ‘sexual pleasure’ in North Wales, Shropshire, London and Romania.

The married father-of-three began his reign of terror when he was only 14 or 15 years old with his offending described as ‘an addiction’ which he was unable to stop.

Thomas’ youngest victim was 11 and the oldest 34 and many sexual assaults took place at Christian camps and other church-related events.

Former BBC presenter and church pastor Benjamin Thomas, 44, has been jailed for ten years and four months for carrying out 40 sex offences against 33 men and boys over three decades. Pictured: Thomas leaving court on September 29

Appearing via videolink from HMP Berwyn in Mold Crown Court, Judge Tim Petts dubbed Thomas a ‘prolific sexual offender’ who hid a ‘dark secret’. 

He was sentenced to 16 years and four months, with ten years and four months in prison and six years on extended licence.

He was also given a sexual harm prevention order and will remain on the sexual offenders register for life.

Simon Rogers, prosecuting, told how Thomas would target his victims – both children and adults – when they were asleep but the ‘vast majority’ had ‘no idea’ they had been sexually assaulted.

The victims had to go through the ‘very unusual and horrific’ experience of being told they were abuse victims. Many of the charges involved touching through bed clothes.

Mr Rogers said one victim had 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.

This happened three times and on the third occasion he ‘jolted up in bed’ and switched his mobile phone light on and found Thomas ‘slumped between the sheets and looking flustered’.

Mr Rogers said: ‘The defendant said, ‘there was three of them, they went round and round.’ The [victim] then jumped into his car and left, because he was so scared.’ 

In a statement read to the court, one victim described feeling angry, hurt, disgusted, let down and violated. He said: ‘His face won’t leave my thoughts.’

Thomas (pictured at Mold Crown Court on June 19) preyed on his victims in North Wales, Shropshire, London and Romania

One said he forgave Thomas in a victim statement, saying: ‘I forgive you. There is no-one too bad for Jesus.’ 

The court heard that on some occasions Thomas told his victims he had been ‘sleepwalking’ after he sexually assaulted them.

When interviewed by police, Thomas said that if his victims stirred he would stop ‘because he did not want them to know what he was doing.’

He was asked what benefit he got from sexually touching his victims and he replied: ‘I’d derive sexual pleasure from that, that’s part of my offending.’

But many others couldn’t recall being assaulted and were ‘shocked’ and ‘sickened’ when told by police that Thomas has confessed to his crimes. Other victims have never been traced.

On one occasion, Thomas had placed a mobile phone in a washbag so he could film boys urinating and taking a shower.

He had done so for his ‘own sexual gratification’ and watched the videos back several times but not shared them with anyone.

Thomas admitted ten counts of sexual activity with a child, eight sexual assaults, and four attempts to commit sexual assault at a previous hearing in July.

He also pleaded guilty to nine indecent assaults, seven counts of voyeurism and two counts of making indecent videos of children.

Some of the offences date back to 1990, but the most recent offences happened at the end of last year shortly before he was arrested.

Thomas  worked for BBC Wales as a reporter and a presenter on Ffeil, the Welsh language news programme for young people, and on Wales Today

A series of victim impact statements were read to the court.

One victim said: ‘I feel completely violated by Ben in that he took advantage of me in such a manner.

‘He assaulted me and used me for his own sexual gratification, this is very difficult to comprehend.

‘I feel for his family, especially his wife and children, it must be a nightmare for them.’

Thomas had been bailed ahead of today’s sentencing hearing but was subsequently remanded in custody last month at his own request.

Defence barrister Rachel Shenton said Thomas expressed his sorrow for his prolific offending. ‘He’s very much a complex character,’ the lawyer told the court. 

‘There’s the exemplary character and good things he has achieved in his life but the very bad things he was doing at the same time.’

He worked for BBC Wales as a reporter and a presenter on Ffeil, the Welsh language news programme for young people, and on Wales Today.

He left the BBC in 2005 to preach on the streets of London, before returning to Wales in 2008 as pastor of the Criccieth Family Church in Gwynedd.

The married father-of-three targeted his victims when they were asleep, the court was told 

A S4C programme screened in 2009 told of Thomas’s journey to the capital, where he ran a small evangelical church at the back of a cafe in Covent Garden, and his subsequent return to rural Wales with his wife Bethan – daughter of former Welsh Secretary Alun Michael – and their three children.

He resigned from his post at the Criccieth Family Church last year after his arrest last September.

In a statement following his conviction, the 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.’

DC Lynne Willsher of North Wales Police, 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.’

She added: ‘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.

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

Ms Rachel Shenton, defending said: ‘He expresses in the strongest possible terms his remorse, regret and sorrow for what he’s done.’

She said Thomas offered ‘no excuses’ for his conduct or mitigation for his actions and there was nothing she could say to the victims for the way they had suffered.

She described Thomas – who has no prior convictions – as a ‘complex character’ who had recognised that his actions were ‘abhorrent’ but had been unable stop what he was doing.

‘It became something of an addiction and he could stop himself doing it,’ she said.

Thomas had been working as a pastor of the Criccieth Family Church (pictured) in Gwynedd

She said that he’d lost contact with his wife and children and had caused ‘terrible harm’ to his parents and ‘lost the respect’ of his community due to his ‘enormous fall from grace.’

Judge Tim Petts said Thomas had hidden a ‘dark secret’ as a ‘prolific sexual offender’ and abused his position as a church leader to prey on his victims, many whom were teenage boys.

The judge said that it was clear from reports ‘that you struggled to reconcile your faith with your sexuality’ but that was ‘no excuse’ for Thomas’ offending.

He said given ‘the nature and extend’ of Thomas’ predatory behaviour over many years and his ‘sexual interest and attraction to young males’ he had ‘no hesitation in saying there is a significant risk of serious harm being caused’ by Thomas ‘in committing further serious sexual offences’.

He added: ‘In order words you are a dangerous offender.’ 

Thomas showed no emotion as he was sentenced.

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