By Donna White | Scottish Daily Record |
UNITED KINGDOM – A Stirling-based church has called for legal action to be taken against women who accused their pastor of sexual offences.
The comments from representatives of the Agape Church came after Dr Walter Masocha was last week cleared of charges of sexual assault.
However Rape Crisis Scotland has hit back at the church, warning that victims of sexual offences could be discouraged from coming forward.
Dr Walter Masocha stepped down from his position at the Agape FANMI (For All Nations Ministries International) church when sexual assault allegations were made against him. But after a sheriff threw out charges last week, the Pentecostal preacher was welcomed back to ministerial duties by his congregation at the weekend.
A spokesman for the church trustees said: “Walter maintained his innocence throughout this dreadful ordeal for him and his family.
“He has conducted himself with the utmost dignity and insisted on tendering his resignation from his church positions until the proceedings were completed, which resulted in him losing his salary.
“It may be that the authorities think it appropriate to consider further action may be deemed necessary against those who made such outrageous and manufactured claims which have no basis in truth.”
But Sandy Brindeley, co-ordinator of Rape Crisis Scotland , told the Observer: “It’s important to be clear that a case not proceeding doesn’t mean that the complaint has been made up.
“Rape and sexual offences are crimes that can be very difficult to prove. We require corroboration in Scotland – and that can be really hard to find.
“In our view it’s unhelpful to be calling for women to be prosecuted in these cases.”
Dr Masocha was convicted in April 2015 of sexually assaulting a deaconess and groping a teenage girl. The church published an apology to his alleged victims on its website. But that conviction was quashed on appeal last February.
Two more women came forward and made further allegations of sexual assault. But after five days of evidence, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson last week dismissed the case, saying their evidence didn’t corroborate each other.
A Zimbabwean woman, now 35, had claimed 51 year-old Dr Masocha had often put his arm around her and touched her “love handles”, and that he had kissed her on the lips. She said he also summoned her to his bedroom and pressed himself up against her during a hug.
But Sheriff Robertson said the evidence was not strong enough to corroborate that of a 47-year-old divorced mother-of-three, also from Zimbabwe, who claimed Dr Masocha had sexually assaulted her during a one-to-one counselling session, kissed her, touched her breast, and exposed himself to her.
Referring to the 35-year-old woman, Sheriff Robertson stated: “At best, her evidence shows at its highest a general propensity to commit this kind of offence. There is insufficient evidence for a conviction.”
Allegations of financial impropriety against the church itself, which is a registered charity, resulted in forensic examination of the accounts by the Scottish charity watchdog OSCR. It dismissed claims that church funds were used by Dr Masocha to buy his current family home, a converted water treatment building in Sauchieburn.
The church has also stated it did not fund Dr Masocha’s legal costs and its insurance did not cover any of the lawyer’s fees associated with the two trials.
Asked to explain why the church had issued a statement of apology when the pastor was originally convicted – and prior to his successful appeal – a spokesman said:
“The church acted appropriately at the time in offering an apology in the wake of a guilty verdict. However, since then, the legal process has been further tested and it has been shown the original verdict was incorrect and has been overturned.’’