Former BBC presenter and pastor abused children and adults in their sleep over almost 30 years

A former BBC presenter and pastor sexually abused children and adults in their sleep over a period of almost 30 years, a court has heard.

Benjamin Thomas, 44, committed many of the assaults at Christian camps and conferences dating back to 1990, Mold Crown Court was told on Tuesday.

The former Wales Today journalist, who was the pastor at Criccieth Family Church in Gwynedd, North Wales, confessed to 40 offences, against 33 male victims aged between 11 and 34, when he was interviewed by police last year following an allegation, the court heard.

Simon Rogers, prosecuting, said: "The vast majority of victims had no idea he had sexually assaulted them.

"It was as a result of his admissions in interview they were told."

Thomas, of Coed Onn Road, Flint, also filmed his victims, once hiding his phone in a washbag at an outdoor centre to film boys going to the toilet or showering.

On some occasions when his victims woke to find him in their room he pretended to be sleepwalking, the court heard.

One man who woke as he was being assaulted described feeling his bed shaking and being "extremely frightened" as he believed "dark spirits" were doing it to him, Mr Rogers said.

When he sat up and turned the light on he saw Thomas, the court heard.

Angry

Mr Rogers said: "He saw the defendant slumped between the beds and looking flustered.

"The defendant then said 'there was three of them, they went round and round'."

The court heard when police asked Thomas why he touched his victims, he said: "I'd derive sexual pleasure from that, that's part of my offending, sadly."

In a statement read to the court, one victim described feeling angry, hurt, disgusted, let down and violated.

He said: "His face won't leave my thoughts."

Another said he forgave Thomas.

He said: "I don't know what Ben has in his heart but I do know if Christ is in his heart I will see him in heaven."

The court heard police had not been able to trace all of the victims Thomas had confessed to abusing.

'Something of an addiction'

Thomas, who has a wife and children, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 40 sexual offences including sexual activity with a child, sexual assaults, attempted sexual assaults, indecent assaults, voyeurism and making indecent videos of children.

He resigned from his role at Criccieth Family Church following his arrest.

Rachel Shenton, defending, said Thomas's behaviour was "something of an addiction" and after the initial allegation was made to police he admitted offences which could never have been proved against him.

She said: "It brought home to him what he was doing, how serious it was and that he simply could not live with himself and what he had done.

"He made the most extraordinary admissions in that interview. He wanted to wipe the slate clean, he wanted the help he plainly needs in that regard, and he wanted it to stop."

She said Thomas, who asked to be remanded in custody following his guilty pleas, had lost his career and his family following his admissions.

She added: "It's an enormous fall from grace for a man who had another side to him and was well liked."

The case was adjourned until Friday, when Judge Timothy Petts will pass sentence.

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