12:00 - 01 August 2003


A Jehovah's Witness has been jailed for 12 years for six rape attacks on a girl.


Eric James Richardson, 53, of Melbury Road , Strelley, used his church-going reputation as a "smokescreen" and created a "climate of fear" in which he groomed the victim.

He denied raping the girl or indecently assaulting her over a period of three years at an address in
London .

But at Isleworth Crown Court he was convicted of six counts of rape and one of indecent assault.

The Metropolitan Police's child protection team began investigating when the victim approached officers in June 2002.

She was worried
Richardson could offend again, and decided it was time to speak up.

Richardson, an electrician with no previous convictions, was arrested on
August 1, 2002 , and interviewed by police. He denied anything of a sexual nature had happened.

The police family liaison officer and Detective Constable Alan Carpenter, of Feltham's child protection team, conducted a thorough investigation.

It involved gaining the trust and confidence of the victim to gather evidence.

After the sentencing, DC Carpenter said: "
Richardson had created a climate of fear which he used to groom the victim and prevent her from speaking out.

"His reputation as a man of good character, particularly in the Jehovah's Witness community, acted as a deterrent for his victim speaking out, and was used as a smokescreen for his crime.

"It has taken a great deal of courage on the victim's part and this result is justice for her and a message to other victims of abuse that you can feel confident to speak out.

"There are organisations that can help you, and will do so in confidence. Help us to help you."

Victims of child abuse who prefer to speak to someone other than a police officer can contact Childline on 0800 11 11.

Alternatively, call the NSPCC child protection helpline, 0808 800 5000, which is staffed 24 hours a day.