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Former Jehovah's Witness who harassed members of his former congregation gets suspended sentence

A banished Jehovah's Witness, who repeatedly harassed members of his former congregation, has avoided jail for the second time.

Derek O'Hare publicly accused members of preying on children during his latest smear campaign around Dover.

Derek O'Hare has avoided jail (22859198)
Derek O'Hare has avoided jail (22859198)

The father-of-two was banned in 2016 from visiting any of the organisation's UK Kingdom Halls after harassing a member of the same fellowship.

O'Hare began levelling his most abuse after a bust up with his former religious order, of which he was a member for 20 years, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

The 62-year-old yelled "they are peadophiles" at two Jehovah's Witnesses promoting their faith outside Boots in Biggin Street.

He would return on two more occasions to terrorise the couple before rounding on the pair in a charity shop, the court heard.

Within earshot of staff O'Hare proclaimed his former-church elders were child abusers.

The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court
The case was heard at Canterbury Crown Court

He later trained his sights on another member inside a Dover plumbing shop, accusing the congregation of covering up alleged abuse.

O'Hare carried out his campaign between February and April last year, while on a suspended sentence for similar behaviour.

Mitigating, Natasha Haufdorff explained her client, who was disowned by the fellowship, was in a "learning process" of controlling his outbursts and pleaded with the judge not to activate the suspended sentence.

“Mr O'Hare needs an opportunity to reflect on his own history with the community and how his behaviour is viewed by this court, it is a learning process.

“Mr O'Hare is under no illusion what is deemed by this court as unacceptable,” she said.

Judge Mark Weekes told O'Hare he was "perilously close" to being jailed for his religiously aggravated campaign, adding he should be "very ashamed".

"Bluntly, you are taking it upon yourself to approach members of your former congregation, and subjecting them to entirely unacceptable forms of verbal mistreatment" - judge Mark Weekes

"Bluntly, you are taking it upon yourself to approach members of your former congregation, and subjecting them to entirely unacceptable forms of verbal mistreatment," he said.

O'Hare, of Anstee Road in Dover, said "I understand" and "thank you" to the judge after being told he was "perilously close" to be being locked up.

He was handed an eight-month prison, sentence suspended for 18 months, for two counts of harassment.

The defendant was also found to be in breach of three counts of racially aggravated harassment from 2016.

He posted leaflets through one member's door, shouted at him in the street and even followed him into a police station.

Judge James O'Mahony banned O'Hare, who has previous convictions for battery and criminal damage, has been banned from all Kingdom Halls and places where JWs attend.

A fresh restraining order is expected to be imposed for the more recent crimes, the court heard.

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