Thursday, January 12, 2006

Case of Jonathan Warrents

Case of Jonathan Warrents

Former Member - United Hebrew Congregation, New Castle Upon Tyne, England

Convicted of an act of gross indecency with an 11-year-old boy, for which he served a prison sentence. This was not his first sex-offence conviction.

United Hebrew Congregation of New-castle-upon-Tyne, barred Jonathan Warrents, a former congregant from entering the synagogue on the grounds that he is a convicted sex offender and shouldn't feel he's welcome within the Newcastle community.  Convicted sex offender, originally chared with gross indecency with an 11-year-old boy.  Warrents had a previous sex offence conviction dating back 25 years.  

January, 2006 –– Warrents was barred from saying Kaddish for his mother at Newcastle's United Hebrew Congregation.


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Table of Contents:

  1. Synagogue bars sex offender from saying Kaddish (01/12/2006)
    • Offending  (01/19/2006)
  2. Kelly's dithering just makes it worse for teachers and parents (01/19/2006)
  3.  Kaddish should always be allowed (02/02/2006)

Synagogue bars sex offender from saying Kaddish
By Daniella Pelled
Jewish Chronical (England) - January 12, 2006

A convicted sex offender has been barred from saying Kaddish for his mother at Newcastle's United Hebrew Congregation.

Jonathan Warrents, 61, served half of a 12-month prison term in 2000 for gross indecency with an 11-year-old boy. He also told the JC that he had a previous sex offence conviction dating back 25 years.

Divorced with three sons with whom he has no contact, Mr Warrents said that after his mother's death, he had hoped to recite Kaddish at the shul's morning minyan. "I feel I've served the sentence. I'm on the [sex offenders'] register, but it's about going forward."

UHC president Victor Gallant said the synagogue had banned Mr Warrents "because we don't want him to feel he's welcome within the community. We still believe that was the appropriate action."

Unlike the Church of England, which has extensive guidelines on dealing with both victims and offenders, the United Synagogue lacks any formal protocol.

Borehamwood and Elstree's Rabbi Alan Plancey said he would allow an offender into the synagogue in the morning when only adults would be present.

Mill Hill's Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet argued that "ultimately, a human being has the right to integrate back into society. And a Jew has the right to fulfil his Jewish obligations."


By John de Lange
Jewish Chronicle - Janurary 19, 2006

The refusal of the Newcastle United Congregation to allow Jonathan Warrents to say Kaddish says more about them than about Mr Warrents.

There is a Reform congregation in Newcastle, and I am sure they will not object to his saying Kaddish. In any case, if he wishes to sanctify the Name in the privacy of his home, I am sure the bearer of that Name will listen.


Kelly's dithering just makes it worse for teachers and parents
By Alice Thomson
Telegraph - January 17, 2006

Should paedophiles be allowed to worship in churches and synagogues? That was the question they were debating on Radio 4's religious programme on Sunday morning.

A synagogue in Newcastle has banned a paedophile from coming to say memorial prayers for his dead mother. A rabbi was explaining why paedophiles should not be made to feel welcome in communities. A child protection officer from the Catholic Church said that banning child molesters from services was an option.

These sex offenders are not applying for jobs as Sunday school teachers or choirmasters; all they want to do is worship, and possibly repent. But they are now considered beyond redemption.

This is a surprising new interpretation of the Christian faith, which places such emphasis on forgiveness. The debate seemed even more extraordinary coming after a discussion about whether Judas could be rehabilitated. Apparently Christ died for everyone except paedophiles.

I have no problem sitting next to a sex offender at a carol service in a church, nor would I mind my children sitting next to one. I don't care whether my hairdresser, newsagent, bank manager or postie is on the sex offenders' register. Nor do I think I should be told if one of my neighbours has been included - after all he might turn out to be a paediatrician.

The only area where it should matter is where children are involved, when the adult is acting as a tutor and a role model. In other words, childminders, nursery school assistants, teachers, sports instructors, priests and rabbis.

It is almost impossible to protect children from any risk of being molested. Much abuse happens at home, you can't stop your children meeting strangers, you want them to enjoy being with their swimming instructors or football coaches.

The best advice given to me by a senior policeman working on paedophilia for the National Crime Squad was to tell your child that if any adult ever says to them: "Promise not to tell mummy or daddy what we're doing," they are probably doing something wrong. But you can't prevent them forming relationships with adults because it's a vital part of growing up.
What you can expect is that when they are at school they are safe, and that you don't have to check on the teachers' credentials. It isn't relevant whether teachers are gay, straight or lesbian, but it does matter if they have shown any sexual interest in a minor. Whether that minor was five or 15, a boy or a girl, and whether it happened five years ago or 15, it still shows that the adult was, at worst, perverted and, at best, both breaking the law and abusing a position of trust. They shouldn't be allowed to teach again - they should find another career.

Just because public schools turned a blind eye to it for generations, and public school men love reminiscing about their narrow escapes with the classics master, it doesn't make it any better. Nor is the excuse that those cautioned or convicted were just browsing the internet.

After Operation Ore, I interviewed the director-general of the National Crime Squad. He explained that these pornographic sites weren't showing pictures of pretty young girls, but newborn babies being brutalised, toddlers penetrated and screaming children forced into obscene positions.

This is why Ruth Kelly should have apologised last week. Instead, the Education Secretary vacillated and blamed her junior ministers. Her civil servants apparently have no idea how many people on the sex offenders' register have been cleared to work. Off the record, they suggest it could be between 10 and 50.

The Education Secretary has failed in several ways. By prevaricating for over a week, she has caused a witch-hunt that benefits no one.

On the one hand, parents now feel nervous about teachers, sports instructors and caretakers; on the other hand, thousands of dedicated professionals have spent a week being eyed up shiftily by mothers and fathers. Those who stand accused have been outed by the press, and their families have had to be given police protection.

Miss Kelly cannot keep saying that this is not only her problem, but that of every education minister before her. She is not like other education secretaries. She was moved to the department after the Soham murders. When she arrived at the ministry, her reading list in her nappy changing bag would have included the Bichard report. This was written by Sir Michael Bichard, a former Permanent Secretary to the Department for Education, after the school caretaker Ian Huntley murdered two pupils.

Sir Michael reported in June 2004. Miss Kelly has had 13 months in the job to react to his findings, yet she has done nothing. Now, under media pressure, she has promised another inquiry. We don't need one. Bichard has already covered the ground with his lucid and thorough report. He suggested that there should be a register for those wishing to work with children administered by a central body that would be briefed by police. There could be an appeal system for anyone barred from the list. Those excluded could, without being stigmatised, retrain for jobs that do not require them to take responsibility for children.

The last area in which Miss Kelly has failed is in improving the standing and work conditions of teachers. The reason that many schools are resorting to taking on supply teachers or employing those with a questionable record is because there is a shortage of anyone prepared to do the job. The pay for a classroom assistant is £15,000, a teacher earns about £30,000. A headteacher may earn up to £100,000 but the pressure of endless bureaucracy is often too much, which is why so many headships lie vacant.

Miss Kelly should go to the House on Thursday and make it clear that she will act immediately on the Bichard report, setting up a new register, rather than waiting for the outcome of yet another lengthy inquiry. She should then suggest ways of encouraging suitable applicants into the teaching profession.

Only if she repents can we forgive the Education Secretary.

Kaddish should always be allowed
By Geoffrey Alderman
(UK) Jewish Chronicle - February 2, 2006

I have a great deal of sympathy with the management of the United Hebrew Congregation of New-castle-upon-Tyne, which has barred a congregant from reciting Kaddish for his deceased mother on the grounds that he is a convicted sex offender and shouldn't feel he's welcome within the Newcastle community.

Some of you have contacted me to ask what the justification could be for this extraordinary prohibition. The Kaddish consists of a recitation in praise of God. In reciting it, the mourner declares, before his brethren, his continuing devotion to and faith in the Almighty, in spite of his loss.

I understand that the gentleman in question — Mr Jonathan Warrents — was barred from reciting Kad-dish (or more precisely from entering the synagogue for this purpose) following the death of his mother. Now, the recitation of Kaddish for a departed parent is a religious obligation. Preventing Mr Warrents from fulfilling this obligation could, on the face of it, be regarded as blasphemy. The fact that the bar might have had rabbinical sanction — and I understand that the rabbi of the synagogue in question has not objected to the bar — would not of itself make it any the less blasphemous.

Mr Warrents has been convicted of an act of gross indecency with an 11-year-old boy, for which he served a prison sentence. This was not, alas, his first sex-offence conviction.

Recent events in the public and political domains relating to sex-offenders apparently being permitted to teach in schools have acted as a sharp reminder to us all of the dangers posed by such individuals even after they have served the punishments exacted by the state. In that sense, the punishment of a sex offender extends well beyond any prison sentence or other criminal penalty. A sex offender never quite pays off his or her debt to society. The debt is lifelong. The forgiveness can never be complete.

I understand fully the revulsion that the Jews and Jewesses of Newcastle must have felt following Mr Warrents's trial and conviction some five years ago. And I fully understand the fear that, if permitted to enter the synagogue, especially on a Shabbat, Mr Warrents will, unless very closely supervised, in-evitably come into contact with young children.

The act for which Mr Warrents was imprisoned was wicked and sinful. But does the fact that Mr Warrents committed a wicked and sinful act, for which he has paid the penalty exacted by the state, give us — his fellow Jews — the right to impose further punishment upon him, especially when this punishment would appear to consist of erecting a barrier preventing dialogue between Mr Warrents and his maker? I do not believe that it does.

Fifteen years ago, it fell to me, as a senior office-holder in London University, to concern myself with the sordid case of a very prominent Jewish academic, Professor Zalman Greenbaum, a lifelong paedophile (as it turned out) who had pleaded guilty at Hendon magistrates' court to three charges of indecent assault on young boys. I insisted that Professor Greenbaum (who was given a suspended prison sentence) leave the university. But he was never — to the best of my knowledge — prevented from saying Kaddish for his parents, and I personally would never have entertained such a suggestion.

Some time later, I was peripherally involved in the case of another convicted Jewish paedophile, a married man who was alleged to have sexually abused one of his offspring. The man protested his innocence but the fact was (as I reminded him) that a jury had found him guilty.

On his release from prison, he started attending a local synagogue, and inquired whether he might be given an aliyah. Inevitably, perhaps, a whispering campaign was got up to prevent this happening.

I lent my support to those who argued differently. What this man needed, I argued — what all who are in his position need — is to be brought closer to God, not to be barred or banned therefrom. Eventually, the aliyah was given, but at a Thursday morning min-yan.

The United Hebrew Congregation of Newcastle-upon-Tyne must not and cannot ban Mr Warrents from reciting Kaddish for his late mother. If he is permitted to enter the synagogue, the necessary steps must be taken to prevent him coming into contact with any child, perhaps by restricting him to weekday morning services.

But, if the opposition to his entering the synagogue is too great, the congregation should take upon itself the obligation — the mitzvah — of making other arrangements, for example an occasional and discreet morning or evening minyan in a private house.



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