A "predatory" man who indecently assaulted young boys while part of a Christian organisation in the 1980s has been sentenced at Northampton Crown Court.
Nigel Perkins, 56, from Cornwall, yesterday (March 28) pleaded guilty to three counts of indecent assault and two counts of gross indecency with a child under the age of 14.
His offences were carried out over six years in the 1980s while Perkins and his victims were members of the Christian community organisation The Jesus Army, now known as the Jesus Fellowship, based in Northampton.
Perkins held head in his hands as the court heard how he 'opportunistically' assaulted his victims and how he convinced them not to talk about the incidents, causing long-lasting emotional damage to the boys.
His Honour Judge Smith said: "You moved from one young boy to another. Some have called it opportunistic but I term it predatory."
The offences were carried out during Perkins' membership of the church.
The Jesus Army, now known as the Jesus Fellowship, is a Christian organisation based in Northampton, which in the 1980s encouraged its men, women and families to live in one of its community houses across Northamptonshire and surrounding counties.
His Honour Judge Timothy Smith said: "At a certain age, young members of the Jesus Army were invited to move in and live in one of these dormitories with other men. It was encouraged for young members to build relationships with the older members so they could learn Christian values.
"Other practices at this organisation were visiting other community houses for Sunday lunch and to take part in community activities in the afternoon, including going on walks."
The court heard how Perkins would use the trust he built with the victims and their families to attempt to 'satisfy his own sexual urges'.
On a Sunday in Northamptonshire, one of Perkins' victims, found himself alone with him, the court heard.
Perkins stopped, pulled his trousers down and began touching himself, the court heard. He then sexually assault the boy for several minutes before the child ran away.
Later, Perkins told his victim what they were doing was 'normal behaviour' and that he should not talk to anyone about it.
Judge Smith said: "The impact on this boy, as he said in his victim statement, was that he felt dirty. He did not talk about it, and as an adult said he took a 'pragmatic view' towards it, in that 'nothing really happened.'"
Another boy was targetted twice by Perkins in Warwickshire.
Judge Smith said: "You abused the kind of friendship you may have had with them."
The boy found himself alone with Perkins when he was changing his clothes. As he was changing his t-shirt, Perkins complimented the boy on his muscles. Then he reached out and stroked him from his abdominal area down to his thigh.
When his victim objected to this, Perkins' told him: "It's alright, it's me."
A second incident involved Perkins performing a sex act on himself in front of the boy before telling the boy to touch him.The boy refused before Perkins continued the act.
"Your victim felt manipulated and ashamed. He tried to put things out of his mind, but the incident was a great knock to his confidence and caused him sexual confusion with long-lasting effects."
Perkins' next victim was abused while he was on a visit to a house in the north of England.
He took the boy on a walk. When they reached an outbuilding, Perkins 'dared' him to go inside with him and touch Perkins' genitals. When the boy refused, Perkins convinced him to carry out the act by paying him 50p, the court told.
Later, Perkins again cornered this same boy and sexually assaulted him.
Judge Smith said: "The victim in this incident felt guilty and ashamed. He felt he was the guilty party because he accepted money for these acts, when it is clear that you are the guilty party."
Perkins left the Jesus Army somewhere after his last offence. During later investigations into abuse at the organisation, Perkins denied ever abusing any children or committing indecent assault towards them.
As part of Operation Lifeboat carried out by Northamptonshire Police, which investigated allegations of abuse at the Jesus Army, Perkins was arrested at his cottage in Penzance, Cornwall.
He pleaded guilty to the five offences.
In sentencing, Judge Smith, said: "I'm told there were complications growing up and that as a young man you felt a lot of confusion. Your defence barrister has told me you are something of an introverted man who would not cope well within the prison environment. You have shown remorse for your actions and are aware of the damage you have caused.
"However, I feel anything other than a prison sentence is not something I can do today."
Perkins was sentenced to three years in prison and faces a lifetime on the sex offenders register. He will also have notification requirements for life, meaning he must inform police of any changes of name or address.
DCI Ally White, of Northamptonshire Police, said: “This court case forms part of Operation Lifeboat, the Northamptonshire Police investigation into non-recent allegations of abuse within the Jesus Fellowship (previously known as the Jesus Army).
“This operation, comprising a small team of detectives and a civilian support worker, began in 2015 and has had the full support of the Jesus Fellowship, who have fully assisted in bringing prosecutions such as this one and the others taking place this year.
“The investigation into Nigel Perkins began as a result of referrals submitted to the Jesus Fellowship leaders by current and former members. This was in response to a request by the Senior Leadership for any situations that have occurred in the past which may mean people have a grievance against the church.
“Perkins was a transient member of the Jesus Fellowship in the 1980s. The convictions for which he has now been sentenced relate to offences, during that time, of sexual assault upon boys whose families were also members.
“He was a predator who would befriend the boys and isolate them during communal events and gatherings and then assault them for his own sexual gratification. Although no physical injury was sustained, the emotional and psychological damage to those boys was extensive and persists in some even to this day.
“We would like to thank every person that came forward with information that helped to secure this conviction. It could not have been done without their willingness to support this investigation and their patience during the process. For some, this meant bringing up painful memories of a past they would prefer to forget and for that we commend them.
"Perkins’ conviction demonstrates there can be a successful prosecution brought against non-recent offences of this nature, in this instance 30 years ago.”
Jesus Fellowship National Team Leader, Mick Haines, said: “We are deeply sorry about the distress, emotional and mental suffering caused to the survivors of Nigel Perkins' abuse. His conviction and this sentence is entirely appropriate and we applaud the efforts of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service."