Mar 24, 2016

Pastor 'didn't see any harm' in spanking to rid woman of depression, court hears

Tom Matthews
Croydon Advertiser
March 23, 2016
Howard Curtis denies all the charges against him
A PASTOR accused of sexually assaulting women in his congregation said he "didn't see any harm" in spanking one of them in an attempt to rid her of depression, a court has heard.
Howard Curtis, who ran Coulsdon Christian Fellowship for decades, claims the smacking of the three women was consensual and denies sexual assault.
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It is alleged that Curtis claimed the sessions, described as "deliverance" counselling had to be done "flesh to flesh" on the bare bottom in order to cast out evil spirits.
With one of the women, it is claimed he also spanked her between her legs to "cure her frigid spirit", and also performed a sex act on her with his finger.
Curtis further denies non-sexual allegations of child cruelty against three youngsters and a charge of assaulting a teenage girl.
The prosecution claim he ran the church "more like a cult", brainwashing his followers and manipulating "vulnerable" women into submitting to spanking sessions for his sexual pleasure, which he claimed were for deliverance from evil spirits.
Curtis' defence maintain the deliverance was "not sexual". Last week, he told jurors that one of the women had asked him to spank her, and he thought it might help with her depression.
He said: "She wondered if it could help with her depression. I thought it could.
"It depends if you see depression as an illness or an evil spirit. If you smack somebody it could free an evil spirit."
Curtis cited the example of Smith Wigglesworth, a Pentecostal "faith healer", who claimed to be able to cure cancer by punching sufferers.
After four weeks of evidence, the jury retired to consider its verdict on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Toby Fitzgerald, in his closing speech to jurors, claimed Curtis had turned his attentions to the women in part because his wife had refused to submit to Christian Domestic Discipline, a small religious movement which advocates a wife's submission to her husband, involving non-sexual spanking
"So whatever desires the defendant held, to satisfy his wish to dominate and satisfy his wish to spank he wasn't getting any change from [his wife] and that, the Crown say, he set to spanking others."
Mr Fitzgerald explained Curtis had helped one of the women out, finding her a job as well as paying for her bills.
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"Those things would be great if they didn't come with the flip side" he said.
"Once he had drawn her in with apparent kindness and significant generosity ... once he's done that, made her trust him and rely on him, things took a turn for the worse."
Julia Flanagan, defending, said her client was not a "charlatan or a megalomaniac", but just a busy pastor trying to do his job.
"He has his church called a cult because he helped men and women in need, both practically and spiritually," she said.
She asked the jurors to put aside their own feelings on religion.
"The purpose of deliverance isn't sexual and is a part of a charismatic Pentecostal church. It may be hard to get your head around.
"Deliverance, for example, ... is actually a widely held belief and there's nothing wrong with it.
"Context is so important. What about the use of extreme force on a very young child? Is that permissible on a very young child? Actually yes, because what about circumcision of an eight-day-old baby which is a tenet of Judaism."
"If you want to engage in Christian Domestic Discipline you have the right to do that."
She said there was "no evidence" that Curtis had used subliminal control patterns to "brainwash" his congregation and said the women who had made complaints against him "bore grudges".
Altogether, Curtis denies seven counts of sexual assault, one count of assault by digital penetration and two counts of indecent assault, against three women between 1991 and 2013.
He also denies four counts of child cruelty against three different youngsters, and a charge of causing actual bodily harm to one of the women woman, all between January 1969 and February 2008.
The trial continues.

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