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‘Religious’ man is jailed for child cruelty

A FIFTY year old man from Brae who mistreated several children by regularly forcing them to stand for five to six hours as they were made to “recite religious tracts” has been jailed for seven months.

The man – who Shetland News is not naming in order to protect the children’s identity – appeared from custody at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Wednesday after previously pleading guilty to neglecting the children on various occasions between 1 January 2004 and 30 January 2015 at two addresses in Shetland.

He admitted causing them unnecessary suffering or injury to their health by making them sit or stand at a table for a number of hours at a time without being fed, including during the early hours of the morning.

The man also prevented them from going to bed, physically chastised them and shouted at them.

He also admitted assaulting his wife on or between 1 December 2015 and 13 February 2016 at an address in Sandwick, on one occasion striking her on the head with his hand and on two further occasions seizing hold of her and repeatedly punching her on the body, all to her injury.

Finally, he admitted staring at a man and sitting in his line of vision at Lerwick’s Shetland Library on Lower Hillhead on 26 April while under a court order not to approach or contact him. The offence was committed while on bail.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie told the court that he caused a frightful atmosphere by “forcing his extreme beliefs” on the children.

He made the youngsters stand for hours at a time praying and reciting religious passages and forced them to sit at a table without feeding them, again for hours, until certain pages were finished.

“His purported religious observances took precedence over everything else,” Mackenzie said.

They were also held by the face and head, lifted off the ground, struck, and pushed and kicked in the legs.

One of the offences involving his wife, meanwhile, saw the man repeatedly punch her thighs after she refused to pray due to tiredness.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said the root of the offences was “religious practice”.

He added that while it wasn’t a “straightforward situation”, his client is now on a “journey” in an attempt to improve his behaviour.

Allan supported the suggestion in a social work report to place his client under supervision instead of being sent to jail – taking into account the time he had already spent in custody.

Sheriff Philip Mann said it was a “very difficult case to deal with”.

He added that the man’s behaviour towards the children went “way beyond what is acceptable in civilised society”.

It was “difficult to understand how that treatment is in the name of religion,” Sheriff Mann added.

He jailed the man for a total of seven months, which was backdated to when he first entered custody on 11 May.

The man was also given 28 days in jail for breaching a court order by sending his former partner a birthday gift between 6 and 9 May at an address in Sandwick, which will run concurrent to the other prison term.

Finally, he was given indefinite non-harassment orders prohibiting him from contacting or approaching his wife and one of the children involved.