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Source : 07/09/1999 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

The Jesus Fellowship will step up protection for children after a 12-year-old girl lost her virginity to a man in one of the religious sect's Northamptonshire houses.

The Christian organisation, based in Nether Heyford, announced it will be holding talks with social services after the affair between the youngster and her 19-year-old lover emerged in court yesterday.

Northampton Crown Court heard how a man twice had sex with the girl in a stable block, while she was staying at one of the Jesus Fellowship's houses with her family last July.

She crept into the stables at 2am for the secret love tryst telling the man she wanted to have sex because she was in love with him.

John Campbell, communications officer for the Jesus Fellowship, said elders would be 'looking carefully at all the circumstances' to prevent other children falling foul of underage sex.

The court heard how the man was consumed with guilt after he had slept with the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, but he had ignored his conscience because she had pursued him.

According to the girl's mother, her daughter was well developed for her age but was mentally immature.

When questioned, the youngster showed very little knowledge about sexual terminology.

Nicola Smith, prosecuting, said concern has been expressed within the fellowship and the man was given 'appropriate advice'.

At one stage he told the elders he found the girl attractive and her attention to him flattering, but denied anything improper was going on.

Later he revealed he had not been quite honest and told others in the fellowship he had slept with the girl.

The girl was interviewed and refused to have a medical examination.

Michael Ellis, defending, said the man, now of no fixed abode, took full responsibility for what had happened.

After he admitted having unlawful sexual intercourse, he was remanded in custody for sentencing when a suitable bail hostel had been found for him.

Following the case, John Campbell, spokesman for the Jesus Fellowship, said: 'We're looking carefully at all the circumstances, now that the case is over we will be consulting with Social Services with a view to improving our child protection policy.'