A spiritual healer and clairvoyant psychic has been jailed for 16 years after he abused eight women on his treatment table.
Renowned reiki master Michael Ireland, 60, used his reputation gained in conducting services at spiritualist churches across Cheshire and Greater Manchester over many years to target his emotionally vulnerable victims. He would then go on to sexually assault them at his flat in the guise of undoing their "emotional blockages", while he also persuaded two women to perform sexual "healing" acts on him.
Pony-tailed Ireland, from Stockport, consistently denied he had done anything wrong until the day of his scheduled trial at Manchester Minshull Street Crown in January when he pleaded guilty to 25 counts of various sexual offences committed over a 25 year-period. When denying his guilt in police interviews, he told detectives: "It is like everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and I can't understand why."
Darren Preston, prosecuting, said: "The defendant holds himself out as a clairvoyant psychic healer and a reiki master. That practice has seen him in many years going to various spiritualist churches acting as a medium and healing people with what he described as 'emotional blockages'. He went to psychic centres and carried out treatment at his home. It is the prosecution's case that in the nature of his work he would come across vulnerable people who could be easily exploited. The majority of his victims came into contact with him through his supposed spiritual practice. The defendant used his relative power over these women to satisfy his sexual desires."
One woman met him in 2009 at a church where he took a healing class and she later confided in him that she was suffering bad dreams. Ireland went on to tell her that she was "carrying demons" and that he would rid them by blowing on her mouth and stomach.
Mr Preston said: "In short he convinced her that there was something wrong with her and that conventional reiki would not help. He said he had a healing method which was a little controversial. He described it as special healing you would only do when no-one else was around."
That led him to touching her intimately as she laid on his healing table, the court heard. The victim said she had convinced herself that Ireland's behaviour was normal and acceptable.
A year later he told another woman that her private parts were "not working, they were dead and they needed healing". A third victim was informed that her sexual chakra energy points were blocked and he needed to loosen them. Ireland then said he was impotent and convinced her to "heal" him by touching his private parts. As she did so she recalled Ireland saying: "I can feel the energy moving."
Ireland also admitted historic sexual offences against two victims when they were underage - one dating back to the mid-1980s and the other from 2010.
Ireland, of Bosden Fold, was jailed for a total of 16 years for various sexual offences including sexual assault, sexual activity with a child, assault by penetration and causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent. He was ordered to sign the Sexual Offender Register for life and will also serve an additional three years on licence when he leaves custody.