Court hears Buddhist lured girls to shrine room with fruti sweets

The Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana

Five assaults allegedly took place at Thames Buddhist Vihara in Selsdon

First published in News Your Local Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant Editor

One of the most senior Buddhist monks in the UK is accused of a string of sexual assaults on two girls aged under 10, including raping one in his temple’s shrine room.

The Venerable Pahalagama Somaratana, is charged with four counts of indecent assault and one of rape against a victim in Chiswick in the summer of 1978 and five counts of indecent assault against a second victim at the Croydon temple in the mid-80s.

Appearing in his saffron robes at Isleworth Crown Court last week, Ven Somaratana, 66, chief monk at Thames Buddhist Vihara, Dulverton Road, Selsdon for the past 31 years, denied all the charges and blamed mistaken identity for the allegations against him.

The court heard the first victim was attacked shortly after the monk arrived in England from Sri Lanka.

Prosecuting Richard Merz told the court the girl, aged nine, had been enticed into the monk’s room with fruit polos and told to sit on his lap.

Later, he told the court, Ven Somaratana cornered her in the temple shrine and raped her.

He said: "You used to see her in the corridor downstairs and ask her upstairs.

"Three times this happened, three times. The victim says the person who did this to her in the shrine rooms was someone who gave her the fruit Polos."

Mr Merz added the second victim, who was aged between nine and 10 during the attacks in 1984 and 85, was also enticed into his room with sweets at the Selsdon temple, which he founded in 1981.

He said: "She says she was attacked by you in your room."

During hypnotherapy in 2009 as an adult she revealled she was the victim of sexual assault The court heard both victims describe how he had them sit on his lap before he touched them.

Ven Somaratana denies the charges. He said he did not know how the first victim was raped but it could have been another monk.

He denied either girl had ever entered his room and said the temple plan meant people could always look in, so it would have been impossible to not be seen with the victims.

He said: "It is a very small room. It is very public people are sitting in front people can see in."

Arguing against the rape in the shrine he said the room was always occupied by worshippers.

He said: "There are so many people coming from 9am to 9pm they regularly go to the shrine room."

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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