January 2003

Churchman jailed for child abuse

A LEADING member of a church was jailed for 18 months yesterday for sex assaults on a teenage boy which took place nearly 30 years ago. 

Retired company director Peter Sweetmore, 69, of St Mellons, Cardiff, admitted four charges of indecent assault against a boy in his mid teens over a two-year period in the mid to late 1970s. 

Newport Crown Court heard that Sweetmore had been a respected member of the Church of God in Cardiff and met the boy through church activities.

But married Sweetmore was arrested only in the autumn of last year after the victim, who is also married, felt able to complain about the abuse.

Sweetmore was also ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Prosecutor David Wooller told the court that after the defendant began to abuse the complainant he would “lean over him and become physically intrusive”. 

Mr Wooller told the court that at the time the victim felt unable to complain about Sweetmore who had a “position as a senior respected member of the church”. But when he was 16, the victim’s feelings of “guilt and disgust” meant he found the courage to tell Sweetmore that what was going on had to stop, Mr Wooller said.

The court heard that the abuse had a detrimental effect on the victim’s life, with him achieving lower exam grades than was expected and he later attempted suicide. The prosecutor said the victim only felt able to disclose matters in Christmas 2000, and Sweetmore was later arrested.

Hilary Roberts, defending, told the court: “At the time of these offences he was an active and leading member of the Church of God. 

“It gave him a position of authority and a position of trust which he abused.” Mr Roberts said Sweetmore had been excommunicated from the church for six months when the offences came to light but had since been welcomed back. Mr Roberts said: `

`The process of healing and forgiveness was sought. “He has been punished in a way the church thought was appropriate.”