The chief monk of Thames Buddhist Vihara, who allegedly abused his position of trust to sexually exploit two underage girls during the 1970s and the 1980s took to the stand on Friday.Testifying at Isleworth Crown Court on the fifth day of proceedings the accused Ven Pahalagama Somaratana thero said he was 32 years old when he first arrived in England, in 1978, BBC Sinhala reports.
He was part of Chiswick Temple from 1978 to 1981, and thereafter went on to create his own Temple in Selsdon, South Croydon, where he remains today.
Ven Somaratana said that he does not remember the first victim during the time of the alleged rape and sexual abuse.
He further exclaimed that as a monk he does not “touch people, especially the women as it is wrong and considered a sin.”
When asked by his own lawyer whether he attempted to rape the first victim or touch her in an inappropriate way during the said time, the Buddhist monks response was: “not at all no.”
The prosecution brought attention to the statement that the chief monk had made in his first police interview, after he was arrested in September 2011 at Heathrow Airport.
He had suggested to the police that the first victim might have got him mixed up with someone else and also that she may have said it was him due to the victim’s family having issues at that time with the monk.
The prosecution team stressed that this simply could not have been the case.
In regards to the victim getting Ven Pahalagama Somaratana mixed up with someone else, the chief monk himself confirmed that “priests in their robes were distinctive” and could be told apart.
Further, the issues that he said he had with the victim’s family which would have encouraged the victim to accuse him of rape and sexual abuse, was confirmed by both the chief monk and the prosecution team as only having occurred very recently in 2010.
The victim had made the complaint about Ven Somaratana to her sister much earlier, between 1991 and 1992.
The defense team or the chief monk has not contested the alleged rape of the first victim in the Buddhist Temple in Chiswick, during 1978-79.
The case continues next week when the defense plans to bring witnesses, from London and from Sri Lanka via video call, to confirm to the jury the nature of the monk’s character.
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