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Church official beat girls aged 9 and 13 with belt

A Free Presbyterian church official has admitted beating two children with a leather belt. Sylvia Fleming regularly hit the girls, aged nine and 13. The 54-year-old, from Skye, pleaded guilty to child abuse charges yesterday.

Roger Webb, defending, told Portree Sheriff Court: “She is a deeply religious person. She had taken a fairly biblical interpretation of chastisement but she went beyond the bounds of reasonable punishment to assault.”

The offences took place between June 2006 and April this year. Sheriff Aladair MacFadyen warned Fleming not to break the law again and ordered her to return in six months for sentencing.

Fleming and her husband James, who hold official roles within the Free Presbyterian Church on Skye, were both accused of attacking children.

James, 56, a church officer and a gardener at Dunvegan Castle on the island, was originally charged with striking a 13-year-old girl on the face. But his not guilty plea was accepted by the court.

Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Rev Dr James R Tallach, said he knew nothing about the conviction. And he vowed to take the case to the Kirk Session, who would take “appropriate action” against her.

He said: “This is the first time I have heard of this. I would never have dreamed that she would do anything like that. I am the moderator for that area and a friend of the family.

“Our beliefs are that we would normally chastise children who required it but it would be an expression of love and attachment, not of violence or temper. There is no way I would condone belting a child.”

• Full story at the Daily Record.

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