Monday, 28 March 2016

The disturbing story of Howard Curtis


Last week Howard Curtis was convicted at Croydon Crown Court of a number of offences of sexual assault against women and two offences of child cruelty. The sexual assaults took place at various times over a long period, between 2007 and 2013: one of the child cruelty offences took place much further back, between 1986 and 1989. Mr Curtis will be sentenced next month and will go to prison.

The prosecutor, says the Mail, told the jury that Mr Curtis
ran the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship in south London as a cult.
If you're not familiar with Howard Curtis, you might have been surprised, on clicking on the link above, to see him pictured playing chess. The photo comes from a 2012 local news story


in which we learn that Howard Curtis didn't just run the Coulsdon Christian Fellowship. He ran the Coulsdon Chess Fellowship as well: a very busy club with "decades" of chess behind it, played by both adults and juniors.

Mr Curtis expresses his enthusiasm for children playing chess:


but perhaps it would not be too churlish to observe that according to the court, Mr Curtis has not always been the best judge of what is "good for children".

If you've played chess in Surrey over the last couple of decades, or if you're just generally aware of what goes on in the English chess community, none of this will have come as a surprise to you, since Coulsdon Chess Fellowship has played a prominent and controversial role in Surrey chess for a very long time.

Howard Curtis was, in his time, Director of Management Services at what was then the British Chess Federation: he also offered to move the BCF offices to his own premises in Coulsdon. Mercifully he was rebuffed: otherwise English chess would have been run out of the office of the leader of a religious cult who sexually abused women and assaulted children. (Of course he did, for a while, actually run that office.)

Oh yes, he also offered his services as Secretary of the Surrey County Chess Association


which offer was also rebuffed.

Not every offer made by Howard (and his longstanding and loyal number two, Scott Freeman) was turned down: they had spacious premises which they were always prepared to make available, they had funds and they had people who were prepared to volunteer. Premises, funds and volunteers are the things English chess clubs need, and tend to lack. So what would characteristically happen is that such-and-such an event or competition would be relocated to CCF or run by its people: or where this did not happen, CCF would set up a rival event. And over time more and more things fell under the direct or indirect control of CCF. This was their modus operandi.

This had led (by the time I arrived in Surrev chess, around 2002) to all sorts of conflicts, in which Messrs Curtis and Freeman were notably disputatious, in which long, barmy emails from Howard Curtis were common and in which threats of legal action were far from unknown. Still, in between shooting matches, the various parties had to find a way of co-existing. A lot of matches and tournaments continued to take place at CCF (as they still do today) since they still possessed those premises, funds and volunteers.

Among all the chess was, as the Advertiser reminded us in 2012, a great deal of junior chess. Presided over by the leader of a religious cult who sexually abused women and assaulted children.

Since you're wondering, none of the offences for which Howard Curtis has been convicted involved his chess activities and nobody but Howard Curtis has been charged with any offences.

So we can, if we like, take the view, now he has been tried, that it was about Howard Curtis and him alone, that it was about his religious role and that alone, that nobody else knew, suspected or could have known anything, that there is no danger that anything untoward could have happened in English chess as a result of CCF's involvement and that there is nothing to worry about.

That's not particularly my view.

I think that
  • where an individual has been convicted of serious offences involving violence to women and children, offences which took places over a long period, and
  • this individual was the longstanding head of a tightly-knit religious cult, a rather disputatious cult at that, and
  • the religious cult and the individual concerned were both heavily involved with junior chess events over a long period of time
then just on general principle, we might not be best concluding without further ado that there's nothing further to worry about.

More on this theme later in the week. In the meantime, I've always recalled this one episode about CCF. It was, I think, 2005, and a controversy had erupted between CCF and the rest of Surrey chess - I can't recall which particular one of many it was, and it's not important.

For some reason, though, the Emergency General Meeting called to adjudicate on the dispute was held at CCF's own premises. Large numbers of CCF members filled the hall. This included many people who I had never seen, people nobody that I was with could recognise. Accordingly, the call came for a register of attendees to be taken which could later be checked against a membership list to ensure that everybody present was eligible to attend and vote.

The register was compiled and taken back to the office - the CCF office, on CCF premises. And once in that office, the register swiftly and mysteriously disappeared.

It was never seen again.

That's not a story about abuse, or violence. It's not even a story about a religious cult as such. It's not even an important story.

It's just a little story, from my personal experience, about how Howard Curtis's organisation behaved and what a completely untrustworthy shower that organisation was.

And now their leader, an influential man in English chess for many years, has been convicted of sexual assault and child cruelty.

This isn't good.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Coming from outside of Surrey, I wouldn't have any reason to consider said figure dubious other than the frequent disputes with the Surrey county association. If we are prepared to set aside reports that he brought discipline to BCF meetings as just in retrospect a poor choice of wording, were there any suppressed rumours?

Although admitted and defended as consensual, I don't recall any salacious stories to that effect before the arrest and trial.

RdC

ejh said...

Me neither. The question is, though, was the same true within CCF?

(One may also ask of course how wise it is, just on general principle, to have religious cults playing a sizeable role within your community.)

Anonymous said...

I was at that meeting in 2005 and if you where a member of CCF chess club you could vote. I used to go to the chess club on a monday night and to some of the events held at the weekend from what i saw it was not run as a cult Religion was never mentioned to me the chess club was run in a friendly way and Scott Freeman was really good at runing events

Anonymous said...

I used to go to ccf and play chess there. Now I'm no longer there. However, through my dealings there and through what I can see from leaving Howard is good at manipulation and the likes of Scott and the rest are almost brainwashed into following his bidding and have no idea of Howard's actual control.

Mike Adams said...

I was present at Croydon Crown Court today when Howard Curtis was sentenced to a total of 6 years imprisonment, of which he will serve half.

ejh said...

Thanks Mike.

gull 1 said...

Interestingly Curtis's daughter who was a solicitor of some sort, was involved in the legal side of child abuse and lives next door on the other side of the church - so did money from these mysterious christian fellowships purchase that house aswell, Curtis's house went I think on the free market ( he was next door on opposite side of church) was his house purchased by these mysterious chrisytian fellowships aswell ? How deeply involved in abuse are all these christian fellowships which seem to be popping up all over the place, someone must go to the police!

gull1 said...

I was told Curtis was involved with Coulsdon Christian Fellowship since 1984 at least, when he first started the building work on the back of the premises. Once again, how did his mysterious employer give him permission to do it all, and how on earth did hiself and his close family manage to get the cash to buy out the houses both sides. Very expensive area, just look in windows of estate agents down there! Somehow then he managed to suck the long existing Coulsdon and Purley Chess club in, change it's name and finnaly bring it into disrepute! Many many old members have infact now left!! I ncluding 'mainstays' of the old Coulsdon and Purley Club. Are all these Christian Fellowship's appearing around the place trying to brainwash and make a considerable amount of cash - I think they all are controlled from the USA somewhere, as said Ashburnham Christian Fellowship (which owns acres of land with a half mile long fence, near Ninfield in East Sussex is involved - what the hell goes on there as well, and what are they planning?

gull 1 said...

Interestingly a video showing a presentation ceremony at The CCF has been posted. It shows juniors being presented with prizes, and you can see just how they are being controlled and prompted, this has obviously been done to make them 'look good'. Just view it!

gull 1 said...

Your critisisms of the CCF are all 100% true, BUT AS SAID ALL THE CCF IS JUST ONE IN HUNDRED'S OF SO CALLED 'CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP'S' NOW SPRINGING UP EVERWHERE! THE REAL QUESTION IS WHO RUNS THEM, THEY HAD ULTIMATE POWER OVER HOWARD CURTIS! THEY MUST HAVE APPOINTED THE 'NEW' PASTOR AND HAVE KNOWN ABOUT THE 'COVER-UP' REGARDINIG THE PROPOSED CANE HILL SITE - ONLY THEY WOULD HAVE HAD THE MONEY! I THINK THEY ARE SOME MASSIVE EVANGELIST ORGANISATION BASED IN THE USA! THERE IS ALSO A MASSIVE PLACE I KNOW THAT THE 'NASTY' PEOPLE AT THE CCCF VISITED REGULARLY, THATS THE ASHBURNHAM CHRISTIAN CENTER IN NINFIELD WEST SUSSEX! i'VE SAID A LOT ON THESE BLOGS AS EX-CCF CLUB MEMBER WHO NEW THEM WELL, ALSO IT WAS NEVER CURTIS WHO WAS MOUTHING OF ABOUT CANE-HILL SITE(COVER UP TO MAKE HIM SEEM INVINCIBLE) IT WAS YOU-KNOW-WHO HIS SECOND IN CHARGE. ENOUGH PEOPLE HAVE SAID ENOUGH - STRIP CCF STAFF OF THEIR ECF ARBITER STATUS AND KICK THEM OUT OF THE ECF, A FRONT PAGE ARTICLE NEEDS TO BE WRITTEN ABOUT THEM IN THE OFFICIAL ECF MAGAZINE OR CHESS MONTHLY. THEY HAVE STILL GOT THE MASSIVE WEIGHT OF THIS MYSTERIOUS ORGANISATION WHO RUNS ALL THE CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIPS BEHIND THEM! THE CCF AREN'T A SMALL CHARITY OR REGISTERED CHURCH, BUT AS I WAS TOLD ONCE BY YOU-KNOW-WHO HIMSELF, PART OF A 'MUCH LARGER GROUP', YET THEY MYSTERIOUSLY MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THEY RUN THEMSELVES (AS THEY MUST IN ALL CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIPS) IT ALL STINKS! KICK THEM OUT NOW! AS SAID I'M JUST ONE OF MANY EX CCF MEMBERS, ALSO THEY CHARGE THE EARTH FOR THEIR MEMBERSHIP, THIS MONEY GOES PROBABLY TO THE MASSIVE ORGANISATION IN THE USA WHICH RUNS ALL THE CCF'S. CURTIS PUT THE FEES UP, BUT NO-ONE WANTS TO PUT THE CLUBS MEMBER SHIP FEES BACK DOWN, IT'S ALL A CASH COW NOTHING ELSE. I EVEN NO THAT ONE OF THE STAFF WHO IS AS DAFT AS A BRUSH AND BRAINWASHED IS GIVEN EASY GAMES TO BOOST HIS GRADE! HE IS ALSO A ECF ARBITER, WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING ECF WAKE UP AND READ THESE BLOGS THE KIND GENTLEMAN AT STEATHAM CHESS CLUB HAS ALLOWED US TO POST!

glaucous gull said...

Although it may be a registered charity the CCF does in fact have and is 'religiously' part of all these other Christian Fellowship's, it's all a 'cover'. The Cane-Hill site saga who you-no-who (Curtis's henchman) mouth off about making things seem real, doubtless could have been purchsed by 'the mysterious evangelist organisation in the States' so it was all a megger cover up for abuse! CCF only a pawn in a mighty web, gleaned this much from you-no-who, when I was on terms with him, and he saw me as a daught 'big mouth' going about playing in lots of chess congresses! Just because CCF registered as small charity, it doesn't mean much. Curtis was once member of religious organisation called Sceptre. As said big money needed to purchase houses on either side of CCF Church they had to buy their owners RIGHT OUT! Very expensive area!