by Rory Cassidy

A FORMER member of a “religious sex cult” has been spared jail for what he described as “a horrible catalogue” of sexual and physical abuse of children.

Alexander Watt, who went on to work Y Sort It in Clydebank, was a member of a group called The Children of God or The Family. The sect supported “free love” and the “very strict discipline of children”.

Father-of-10 Watt, who used to live in Alclutha Avenue, Dumbarton, abused two children in the central belt in Scotland in the 1980s while “very much into a hippy religious sect”.

Procurator fiscal depute David McDonald told Paisley Sheriff Court: “This was a ‘sex cult’. The organisation believed in ‘free love’ and in the early years there appears to have been no structures on sex, regardless of age or relationship.

“The rules of the organisation changed around 1986 when sexual contact between adults and children became an ‘excommunicable offence’. The organisation also advocated very strict discipline of children.”

Watt sexually abused his first victim when she was aged between four and eight and battered her, leaving her with bruises. She told police the other main policy the cult had was, “spare the rod, spoil the child”.

Watt, 68, sexually and physically abused a boy between 1984 and 1989, when the boy was aged between six and 11.

The boy said he was “sometimes left with bruises and there were always raised, red marks” after he’d been struck, and would sometimes be hit until he “screamed” in pain. He was sexually assaulted by Watt twice in a bathroom – and forced to touch Watt’s private parts.

The victim reported the abuse to police in Aberdeen in March 2005 but nothing was done until a girl reported the abuse in November 2015.

When interviewed by police Watt said he’d been a member of a hippy religious sect in the 60s and 70s which imparted early years sex education, and “had a lot of open attitudes to body parts and awareness of what they were, which could be seen as wrong by British society”.

He said he was “very, very sorry that the whole situation didn’t work out well, and some of the children were quite upset and unhappy” and said the sex abuse was part of the cult’s teachings.

Watt pleaded guilty to four charges – sexually abusing the girl, assaulting the girl, sexually assaulting the boy, and assaulting the boy. A fifth charge, which related to another boy, was dropped.

Defence advocate Joseph Barr said Watt gave “a heartfelt apology” to his victims and “totally regrets the distress he caused them during their childhood”.

He said Watt had “believed in [the cult’s] teachings” and “was not doing it for his own sexual gratification nor with the intention to corrupt”.

He added: “Since he left the sect he has lived quite a remarkable life. Effectively he’s been a model citizen throughout his working life.”

When Watt returned to the dock this week, Mr Barr said he’d devoted his post-cult life to working positively with children “due to feelings of guilt due to his treatment of these children” – and even worked with the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme and Y Sort It, around 10 years ago.

And he said Watt had “deep sorrow” for the “horrible catalogue” of “inappropriate, indecent and damaging behaviour” which caused his victims “a magnitude of suffering.”

Sheriff James Spy placed Watt on a three-year probation order.

Watt has to attend a group that helps sex offenders change their ways and carry out 240 hours’ unpaid work. He was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for three years and is banned him from having any contact with anyone under the age of 17.