Spiritual healer, 77, to appeal prison sentence

William Workman, a spiritual healer, arriving at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing after pleading g

William Workman, a spiritual healer, arriving at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a woman who visited him for treatment. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

A 77-year-old spiritual healer from Sprowston who admitted sexually assaulting a woman who visited him for treatment was jailed for four months – before immediately being released on bail pending the outcome of an appeal against his sentence.

William Workman, of Alford Grove, off Russell Avenue, appeared at Norwich Crown Court to be sentenced after previously having pleaded guilty to one count of sexually assaulting a woman between May 2011 and August 30, 2011.Workman, who came into court with a walking frame, was jailed by Judge Nicholas Coleman despite hearing a plea by Ian James, who represented the defendant, that a custodial sentence would have a 'devastating' effect on his client.

Judge Coleman said Workman was a person in a position of trust who had 'breached that trust' and despite taking into account his plea, age, physical difficulties and Mr James' view of the 'devastating' effect prison would have on him added the 'least possible' sentence he could pass was one of four months' imprisonment.

The sentence prompted Mr James to make a request to the judge that he 'grant a certificate' so he could get the sentence reviewed by the court of appeal and his client be granted bail during this process.

Judge Coleman initially refused the request but later came back into court to grant a certificate allowing Mr James to take it to the court of appeal. Workman, who had also been put on the sex offenders' register for seven years, was granted bail pending the outcome of the appeal.

Workman declined to comment after yesterday's case.

Andrea Lock, prosecuting, said the victim visited him about 30 times over a period of years so he could perform reiki on her in treatment rooms at his home address.

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The court heard during 2011 the victim became slightly concerned 'about the way in which he was touching her in order to perform the treatment'.

Although she was concerned whether it was appropriate she trusted him, 'regarded him as a friend', and decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.

She again visited him in July 2011 for treatment. Miss Lock said Workman massaged the victim all over and put his hand below her navel which 'made her physically jump' at which point the defendant stopped.

She said that from the victim's point of view was the final straw and she did not go back to visit the defendant.

The victim 'confided in a friend' at the same church who advised her to go to the police.

Miss Lock said the victim had misgivings in light of the help he had given her but did eventually make a complaint about eight or nine months later as she was concerned he might give treatment to vulnerable girls or women.

Inquiries were made and it was confirmed he had been a member of the Spiritualists' National Union at the time of the offence but that his registration had lapsed in 2011.

As a registered member of the union Workman would have had to adhere to a code of conduct which prohibits the touching of 'sensitive areas'.

Mr James, for Workman, said his client, who was in 'ill health' was 'not planning on engaging in this sort of activity again' but said he had been working in this area for 'many years and many, many people have benefited from his activities'.

Mr James said he had told Workman the fact he had been 'entrusted' to behave in a proper way was likely to stand against him when it came to being punished but urged the judge to consider other options rather than custody which he said 'would be a tragedy for him' as it would be 'difficult to see how he could cope in that environment'.

He said: 'He's 77 and the whole experience I'm sure would be absolutely devastating'.

Mr James said his client had showed 'significant remorse' and feels regretful, sad and ashamed.