20 Nov 2008

Scots orphanage founder jailed for 20 years for child abuse in Albania

The Scotsman - November 20, 2008

by Claire Smith

A CHARITY worker from Edinburgh has been sentenced to 20 years in jail after he was convicted of sexually abusing children at an orphanage he founded in Albania.
Evangelical Christian David Brown was described as a "threat to society" by the judge, who also ordered him to be deported from the country after completing his sentence.

However, his supporters say Brown, who has been held for more than two years in an Albanian jail, is innocent, and will appeal the sentence.

Brown, 56, founded the home for street children, which he named "His Children" in Albania's capital Tirana eight years ago, after working with a charity in neighbouring Kosovo.

In court, Judge Gerd Hoxha read testimony from former orphanage residents who described being beaten and sexually abused by Brown and forced to sleep naked in his bed. The children, some of whom also testified by video link, said they had been threatened with expulsion if they told anyone.

At least seven children from the orphanage aged between six and 13 showed signs of sexual abuse following medical examinations. Brown admitted failing to stop others abusing the children by not checking the backgrounds of all the volunteers who had access to them.

Brown was also responsible for overcrowding the institution: it is thought as many as 50 children were in the home, sleeping eight to a bed.

Two Englishmen who worked at the orphanage – Dino Christodoulou, a social therapy nurse from Blackburn, Lancashire, and Robin Arnold, a salesman from Cromer in Norfolk – have also been charged with molesting children.

Missionaries from around the world travelled to work at the orphanage, which was closed in 2006 following a police raid.

Brown later confessed he had concealed sexual abuse at the orphanage because he did not want Albanian social workers to close it down.

During the trial Brown said he had taken two boys into his bed – but claimed it had been to comfort them because they were having nightmares.

He said: "I am an honest man. I have been accused in this trial as a man who abused two children but the truth is different.

"I was the person who saved their lives from poverty.The care I gave them was like being a father to them. I am inviting the court to take into consideration all the good work I have done with these children."

Brown's lawyer, Gjystina Golloshi, said he would appeal conviction of committing sexual acts with children.

His supporters in the UK have accused the Albanian authorities of failing to ensure a fair trial and say Brown has become ill and gaunt after spending two and a half years in jail.

Yesterday, a close friend of Brown, who asked not to be named, said Brown had worked with children in the UK and abroad for three decades. He said: "In 30 years there was never one complaint or allegation.

"He could never abuse or harm a child."

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