British man running Odisha shelter home arrested for sexually abusing minor

a man smiling for the camera: File photo of John Patrick Bridge, who founded home shelter Faith Outreach. (HT Photo) ()© Provided by Hindustan Times File photo of John Patrick Bridge, who founded home shelter Faith Outreach. (HT Photo) ()
The Odisha police have arrested a 68-year-old British citizen running an orphanage in the state’s western district of Jharsuguda on charges of sexually abusing a minor boy in his shelter home.

Police officials in Jharsuguda said John Patrick Bridge – who ran a child shelter home called Faith Outreach in the Cox Colony area of the town, where he provided education to the tribal students – was arrested following a complaint by a minor tribal boy about Bridge sexually abusing him.

In his complaint, the victim alleged that when he had gone with Bridge to his native place in Rayagada district for Christmas last year, the latter had fondled his thigh and private parts while returning in an SUV.

“After a complaint was filed at Jharsuguda police station under section 341 of the IPC (Punishment for wrongful restraint), 10 POCSO Act (aggravated sexual assault ) and section 3(i) (r), 2 (va) of SC/ST (POA) Act, the accused was arrested. Further investigations are on,” said Rahul PR, Jharsuguda SP.

Sources said the FIR against Bridge was lodged following an inquiry undertaken by Indian Embassy in New Zealand about misuse of funds given to Faith Outreach by a New Zealand-based funding agency. The issues of sexual abuse cropped up during the funds misuse probe following which police officials asked the victims to lodge complaints.

Bridge, along with his wife Delphine, started Faith Outreach 25 years ago in Jharsuguda to provide education to the tribal students. There is a Baby Care Center, which provides a home and care for abandoned babies as well as a children’s home that provides clothing, education, medical care and daily food to over 400 poor children. The organisation also has a training centre that prepares volunteers to work as social workers in the local communities.

The shelter home has been shut down since March this year following the onset of Covid pandemic. Officials of Faith Outreach did not comment over the arrest of Bridge.

This is the second such incident of abuse of minor children in Odisha in the last two years. In December 2018, Faiz Rehman, a pastor who ran Good News India Dream Centre, a child shelter home in Dhenkanal district, was arrested by police after allegations by the inmates that he physically and sexually tortured them. The minor girls in the shelter home had alleged that Rehman hugged, kissed and made them hold his sexual organs and whenever they raised any objection or protested, he threatened them to throw them out from the centre.

Rehman, who is in his 50s, studied theology in the United States and is now in a Dhenkanal jail since December. His bail applications were rejected by the Orissa High Court twice – in February and August – last year. Police submitted chargesheet in the case in January 28 last year before a designated POCSO court and trial in the case has already started.

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