A court in South London has been hearing evidence in a sexual abuse trial involving one of the most senior Buddhist monks in Britain in a case that has sent shockwaves through the Sri Lankan community in the United Kingdom.
The Venerable Pahalagama Somarathana, 66 – founder of the popular Thames Buddhist Temple in Surrey and one of the most respected figures in the community – is facing nine counts of rape, indecent assault and sexual assault dating back to the late 1970’s and early 80’s.
One of his alleged victims claims she was abused by the priest in Chiswick, West London while another says she was abused in a shrine room at the Surrey temple.
The Sri Lankan-born Venerable Somaratana appeared at Isleworth Crown Court last week to deny the charges, saying he was the victim of mistaken identity.
According to the prosecution, the first victim – who was nine at the time of the assault in 1978 – had been lured into the monk’s room with fruit Polo sweets before being indecently assaulted.
The second victim only recalled the assaults during hypnotherapy sessions she underwent as an adult in 2009.
Members of the majority Buddhist Sinhala community who patronize the temple have come out in force defending the monk.
A dozen character witnesses appeared at court to give evidence on behalf of the defense, with one saying she had known the accused for more than 30 years and he had “always been a professional”.
“He’s a priest and as far as I’m concerned he’s never stepped out of that role” she said.
Another witness, a GP, said she too had known the monk since the inception of the Thames Buddhist Temple and had never had any complaints from her children about the chief monk.
The case continues at Isleworth court.
- UKAsian Staff