A former BBC presenter and pastor has been jailed for 10 years and four months after he confessed to his “dark secret” as a prolific sex abuser.
Benjamin Thomas, who worked on Wales Today and Welsh language children’s programme Ffeil, was sentenced at Mold Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to 40 sexual offences committed over a period of almost 30 years.
The 44-year-old, who was pastor of Criccieth Family Church in Gwynedd, North Wales, up until his arrest last year, assaulted boys and men while they were sleeping, often at Christian camps and conferences, the court heard.
“You hid a dark secret”
Sentencing him, Judge Timothy Petts said: “For nearly 30 years, until your arrest in September 2019, you hid a dark secret, namely that you were a prolific sex abuser.”
He sentenced Thomas to 10 years and four months, with an extended licence period of six years.
The court heard the vast majority of Thomas’s victims were teenage boys.
Judge Petts said he abused his position as a “respected church leader” to find potential victims and his preferred method was to wait until they were asleep to abuse them.
He said: “As time went on, you progressed to making secret videos of boys and men.”
The court heard Thomas once hid his phone in a washbag at an outdoor centre to film boys going to the toilet or showering.
His offending came to light when one victim had the “courage to come forward”, and Thomas was reported to police, Judge Petts said.
Thomas, of Coed Onn Road, Flint, initially answered “no comment” when interviewed by police, but three weeks later asked to be re-interviewed and confessed to offences against 33 victims aged between 11 and 34.
Many of his victims were unaware they had been abused until they were traced by police following Thomas’s confession, and not all of the males he admitted abusing have been found, the court heard.
Judge Petts said: “You know the harm you have caused to your victims and the wider impact your crimes have had upon your family and the church community.”
“Facade of respectability”
The judge said Thomas, who began the sexual abuse when he was 14 or 15, had a “facade of respectability” in his trusted position as church pastor.
He said reports showed Thomas “struggled to reconcile his faith and sexuality” but that was no excuse for his crimes.
The judge classed Thomas as a dangerous offender, ruled he would be on the Sex Offenders Register for life and issued a Sexual Harm Prevention Order.
Thomas, who has a wife and children, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 40 offences including sexual activity with a child, sexual assaults, attempted sexual assaults, indecent assaults, voyeurism and making indecent videos of children.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gareth Evans said: “North Wales Police welcome today’s sentence and I hope it will give some reassurance and comfort to the survivors of Thomas’s abuse.
“He took a privileged position where he should have provided inspiration and guidance to young people, but instead caused real damage to young lives.”
A spokesman for NSPCC Cymru said: “His offending will have had a profound effect on many of those he abused and it is vital they are able to get all the help they need to move forward with their lives.
“Thankfully, Thomas’s campaign of abuse has now been brought to an end and he is rightfully facing time in jail.”