High-living pastor convicted of sex assaults

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The Independent Online

Pastor Douglas Goodman was a charismatic preacher who concerned himself with spiritual matters during weekly sermons to his huge congregation. But his lifestyle seemed at odds with his evangelical zeal.

Pastor Douglas Goodman was a charismatic preacher who concerned himself with spiritual matters during weekly sermons to his huge congregation. But his lifestyle seemed at odds with his evangelical zeal.

He drove expensive cars and wore designer clothes. He and his wife Erica were so respected at the Victory Christian Centre (VCC) in Kilburn, north London, that they were crowned king and queen during an appreciation day.

But it was sins of the flesh that led to Goodman's dramatic fall from grace. He was convicted yesterday of four charges of indecent assault, having been branded "predatory" for targeting vulnerable women in his congregation.

His charismatic preaching style helped him prey on at least two of the more impressionable worshippers at his church, the Old Bailey heard. The court was told Goodman, a former bus driver who was not ordained, abused his position as the spiritual leader of the church to satisfy his sexual appetites.

John Coffey QC, for the prosecution, told the jury: "He acted in a predatory fashion, singling out those who were vulnerable. He targeted mainly younger members of the congregation, posing as a paternal figure, rendering them susceptible to his advances. He abused his position and their trust."

The court heard how his magnetic personality attracted a congregation of up to 3,000 and the VCC became the second fastest growing church in Britain. While its coffers were boosted to a reported £7million as churchgoers paid in over 10% of their salaries, Goodman, 47, from Collingtree, Northampton, lived the high life driving Porsches and Mercedes.

The church was closed by the Charity Commission 17 months ago after it was found to be £200,000 in the red. The commission's findings are being studied by the Metropolitan Police Fraud Squad, which is also investigating Goodman.

A commission spokeswoman said: "We opened an investigation due to complaints about the misappropriation of funds and personal benefit to Pastor Goodman and his wife. We have been liaising with police throughout the inquiry."

Goodman's downfall came after four women aged between 17 and 32 complained that he had made sexual advances to them. The women said that when they complained to elders, they were ordered to leave the church.

When Goodman, who has four children, was approached by the elders, whom he had appointed, he told them he had "let a couple of girls get too close", the court was told.

He refused to resign and said one of the girls had approached him naked in a hotel room, demanding: "Pastor, come and make me scream."

Goodman denied 14 charges but was found guilty of four after a retrial. The jury cleared him of two indecent assault charges against Miss A, a 33-year-old production manager and former actress, but could not agree on a rape charge. He was found guilty of two indecent assaults, which took place at a cinema on Miss B, a 19-year-old student. After the first assault, Goodman apologised and said they had to put themselves "in the path of temptation" again to prove they could beat it. But the temptation had been "too much for him" and he had assaulted her again.

He was also convicted of attempting to indecently assault Miss D, 26, and perverting the course of justice by getting another church member to threaten Miss C, 17, during the police investigation. The jury could not reach verdicts on the other charges. Judge Gerald Gordon granted Goodman bail but warned all options were open to him in sentencing.