Man escapes jail for sex attacks

BBC News, UK/August 23, 2007

A Jehovah's Witness elder has escaped a jail term after admitting a series of sexual assaults on children and adults in Clevedon.

Michael Porter, of Okehampton Close, north London, admitted 24 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency on 13 victims aged 18 months and older.

Among the individuals were others involved in the faith.

Judge Tom Crowther at Bristol Crown Court sentenced Porter to three years of community rehabilitation.

The judge opted not to jail Porter after hearing he had undergone therapy and was a changed man.

He was banned from working with anyone under the age of 18 and put on the Sex Offenders Register.

But Porter's sister, Tina Hughes, said: "I am absolutely disgusted. He should not have walked free.

Many of the families involved have been completely traumatised

Det Con Lisa Finch

"He has lost nothing. We have to tell the victims we have got no closure. He is an evil person. He is not human."

Det Con Lisa Finch, of Avon and Somerset Police, said: "Many of the families involved have been completely traumatised. It has turned their lives upside down."

Avon and Somerset Police are thought to be considering appealing against the sentence.

Norman Brennan, founder of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "If we're to reassure parents and send out a strong deterrent message to paedophiles, then those convicted should face prison sentences that both punish and deter others."

The court was told that Porter, 39, carried out the assaults between 1986 and 2000.

Babysitting youngsters

He was a respected member of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Portishead and Clevedon.

Parents trusted him to look after their children, and he regularly babysat for youngsters, took them away on holidays and invited them for sleepovers at his home.

He finally admitted what he had done after one of his victims threatened to go the police.

Porter declined to comment as he left court with his wife. He remains an elder in the religion.

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