The concept of modus operandi in the context of sexual assault cases refers to a perpetrator’s behaviours prior to, during, and following sexual abuse.
Academic researchers have conducted numerous studies of different models of modus operandi. From my own experience of representing survivors of sexual abuse over some decades now, I have noted that the modus operandi of sex offenders are wide ranging, but it is staggering how different sex offenders use distinctly similar modus operandi, almost as though there is an unwritten text book out there.
Even in pre internet days, when there was no evidence to suggest perpetrators knew each other, there seems to have been an uncanny similarity in how they accessed children, what excuses they made to commit acts of abuse, and what they said to the victim afterwards.
I have also noted the consistency of modus operandi used by sex offenders – based on the hundreds of accounts I have heard, paedophiles tend to be consistent in the way they offend, often using the same tactics again and again, on multiple victims. A classic approach in sexual abuse of boys’ cases for example, is where they groom the boy with favours, earning their trust, before checking to see whether they are ‘growing up’ yet, thus persuading the boy to show them their private parts.
A notable modus operandi
One notable modus operandi relates to a Methodist church minister Reverend John Price (deceased), who used hypnotism to abuse boys who formed part of his congregations.
John Price was the minister of churches in York and Pocklington, East Yorkshire during the 1970’s and 80’s. Four boys aged between the age of 11 and 17 were subjected to John Price’s unusual modus operandi of hypnosis, employed to abuse them. We represented one such victim in a civil compensation claim.
John Price was charged with thirteen counts of indecent assault on boys. Following his conviction on 16 May 2017, Reverend John Price was sentenced at Teeside Crown Court to over 8 years’ imprisonment.
The court heard how one of the victims reported John Price to the church minister of his sexual advances towards him, but told he was “being silly”.
In 2001, our client Mr “X”, reported the matter to the pastor of another church he was attending of a different denomination. The matter was not taken further.
In January 2015, someone encouraged our client to report Price to the Methodist Church as part of the Methodist Safeguarding Survey, and the matter was passed on to Humberside Police. This led to the subsequent conviction of Reverend John Price. He died in prison in February 2020.
Reverend John Price had befriended Mr “X” as a child, whose parents were full time and active members of the local Methodist church and who trusted and revered the minister. When our client was 14-15 years old, he suffered a knee injury whilst running and for a few weeks it was disabling. Upon invitation to Reverend Price’s home, he told Mr “X” that he was going to hypnotise him in order to ease the pain in his knee. Reverend Price made our client remove his trousers on the pretext that he would be able to massage our client’s knee once he was under hypnosis. He proceeded to attempt to hypnotise our client by making him hold a 50 pence coin in a clenched fist and closing his eyes. He massaged our client’s knee, whilst our client pretended to be hypnotised, feeling frightened and confused, deeply uncomfortable. John Price began to sexually assault our client on further occasions of hypnotism and the abuse escalated, continuing over several months and on several different occasions. Our client, a child, felt pressured to acquiesce.
The Methodist Church’s apology
After the prosecution of John Price, in a statement, the Methodist church apologised to the victims of John Price, saying “The Methodist Church continues to work through cases that have been brought to its attention as a result of the Past Case review into non-recent abuse within the church”.
It said that significant work had been undertaken to reduce the possibility of the church being used by those “who are intent on using it as a means to harm others”, and to ensure that all safeguarding concerns were fully investigated in a timely manner.
The Civil Compensation Claim
Seeking justice in both the criminal and civil courts, in March 2022 our client initiated a claim against the Methodist Church and an early admission of liability was made. Medical evidence supporting the lifelong harm caused by John Price’s abuse was obtained. The psychiatric expert in the case considered that our client had suffered an adjustment disorder, episodes of depression, and that he met the criteria for harmful use of alcohol. Importantly the expert said that the abuse by Price was an important cause of these conditions.
Our client was academically able at school and had ambitions to become a doctor. Instead he became a teacher, however over the years he felt he had not dealt well with the demands of teaching which he found extremely stressful, and which he believe impeded his progression as a teacher.
Ultimately our client was successful in securing a six figure sum, representing the serious nature of the sexual abuse and the financial losses which flowed from it, including a lost earnings’ claim.
Whilst nothing can take away the pain, the memories and the lifelong sequelae of childhood sexual abuse, our client was delighted with the outcome of his civil claim against the Methodist Church. It will enable him to seek the therapy recommended to him by the expert in the case, and will go some way to ‘a fresh start’.
It was heartening to see that following through their apology, the Methodist Church, ultimately paid out compensation to Mr “X” after he brought a civil claim.
If you are contemplating seeking justice for sexual abuse you suffered when you were a child, as a first step you are welcome to download our eBook.
Alternatively, you can download our other guide which is more tailored to abuse in churches or schools here. Both guides aim to provide information to survivors about what a civil compensation claim involves, and can help you make a decisions about whether and how to proceed with one.
I would be pleased to speak to you, confidentially and with discretion, should you wish to give me a call on 01234 360140, or drop me a line via our "Contact us" page.