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Jesus Army abuse compensation scheme opens

Website: BBC News
Date: 28/09/2022
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A compensation scheme for survivors of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the now-defunct Jesus Army has opened.

In 2019, ex-members told the BBC how children suffered abuse on a "prolific scale", with most claims relating to incidents between the 1970s and 1990s.

The Jesus Fellowship Church Trust (JFCT) said survivors could be entitled to compensation, a written apology and an "acceptance of responsibility".

Applications to the compensation scheme can be made until the end of 2023.

The Jesus Army was a religious movement that sprang up in Northamptonshire in the 1970s.

At its peak it had more than 2,000 members, hundreds of whom lived together in communal houses throughout central England.

Several men have been sentenced for the indecent and sexual assault of victims.

It dissolved itself in 2019 after the BBC revealed hundreds of former members were seeking damages for alleged sexual, physical and psychological abuse.

The BBC exposed allegations of abuse on a "prolific scale" including rapes, "brainwashing" and the brutal or sexualised beating of young children by groups of men.

In 2020, a leaked report found abuse was covered up by senior members of the religious sect.

In a statement on its website, the JFCT said the scheme "offers fair redress to those who have suffered harm, abuse and/or adverse experiences within the Jesus Fellowship community".

It said it was "specifically designed to give survivors and applicants an effective means for swift and compassionate settlement, without having to go through the courts".

"It ensures the compensation available goes to survivors and applicants, rather than being eroded by legal fees. It also means no survivor or applicant, who claims through the scheme, will have to restate their experience in court."

A spokesman for the Redress Scheme said: "The trustees are hugely grateful to the survivors whose collaboration was a crucial element in its design.

"It has a wide scope, and we firmly believe it is the best means for providing applicants with a swift, fair and compassionate settlement, without their having to go through the courts.

"It not only offers redress to those who have suffered harm or abuse, but also provides a clear process for employment, pension, national insurance and retirement claims."

In response to the scheme opening, the Jesus Fellowship Survivors Association said: "We have been appealing to and negotiating with the Jesus Fellowship Trust on behalf of survivors for five years.

"During that time we have never been assured for definite that what we have asked for would be included in this scheme.

"Time will tell if anyone will get proper redress for their adverse experiences and abuse."