Judge finds verdict, sentence reasonable

By Jane Sims
LondFree Press
May 12, 2015

Royden Wood

The charismatic, controversial preacher at a former London church has lost his final appeal of sexual assault convictions.

Royden Wood, 65, led the now-defunct Ambassador Church at King and Adelaide streets. Druing his tenure, there were allegations — and ultimately criminal convictions — related to his cult-like leadership style and questionable marriage counselling.

The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected his appeal of his convictions by a jury in November 2011 and the six-year sentence dealt to him in April 2012.

In a brief decision, the court agreed with Superior Court Justice Dougald McDermid’s decision not to move the trial to another community and found the judge’s instructions to the jury were fair and balanced.

It dismissed Wood’s contention the verdicts were unreasonable, given the jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting three complainants, but acquitted him of charges involving two others.

The sentence, the court said, was reasonable.

“The offences of which the appellant was convicted involved acts of sexual intercourse on two victims and sexual abuse of a third over a significant period of time and in the context of a pastor-­parishioner relationship,” the court said.

Whispers of weirdness surrounding the evangelical church began long before it closed in 2007. Wood was charged in 2005, along with another pastor, a deacon and a church member. Charges were dropped against the pastor and the deacon.

Wood ran the church as a closed community and insinuated himself into all aspects of his parishioners’ lives.

He was convicted and sentenced to 11 months in 2008 for assaulting boys at an alternative school and sexually assaulting two female church members by grabbing their breasts. He acted as his own lawyer at the first trial.

Wood moved to Gravenhurst before his sexual assault trial in 2011, which centred on Wood’s counselling tactics to make the women of the congregation better wives to their husbands.

Wood gave private counselling sessions to the women that involved massages, sexual intercourse and squeezing “toxins” out of their breasts. There were details of encounters at his West Lorne home and in vehicles.

The women testified they felt they had to comply or fear shunning from the church.


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