A man working as a spiritual healer has been jailed for 16 years for sexually abusing eight women on his treatment table - two of which were underage.
Reiki master and clairvoyant psychic Michael Ireland, 60, pleaded guilty to 25 counts of various sexual offences committed over a 25-year-period
Mr Ireland would target his emotionally vulnerable victims during treatments in his own home, claiming to be undoing their ‘emotional blockages’.
He also persuaded two women to perform sexual ‘healing’ acts on him.
Pony-tailed Ireland, from Stockport, also admitted historic sexual offences against two victims when they were underage - one dating back to the mid-1980s was only seven or eight when the abuse began and the sexual assault continued into her early teens.
Ireland consistently denied wrongdoing until the day of his scheduled trial at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court in January when he pleaded guilty.
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.’
She described the defendant as a ‘very strong, powerful personality who had a presence about him’.
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.
The more recent case involved a young girl with emotional problems who was introduced to Ireland by her mother who had undergone healing herself from him.
Ireland began repeatedly abusing her from the age of 15 while supposedly healing her.
During the trial, one middle-aged woman in the public gallery burst into tears as the details of the case were outlined and left the courtroom before she later returned before Ireland was sentenced.
His earlier child victim was only aged seven or eight before he began touching her intimately on his treatment table - abuse which continued until her early teens.
Mr Preston said one woman suffers from flashbacks and has become a recluse, one felt ‘sullied’ by the defendant and thought it ‘bizarre’ that she had effectively paid money to be abused and another woman explained she could no longer trust anyone.
Ireland had three previous convictions, with one of relevance. In 1972 the defendant was fined for indecently assaulting a girl aged under 14 when he was 18-years-old, the court heard.
John Broadley, defending, said the process had been a ‘shock’ to Mr Ireland.
He does not have the best of health and is being treated for various conditions,’ Mr Broadley added.
Ireland had so far embraced rehabilitation programmes in prison and it would be hoped that he would come out of custody a different man, said Mr Broadley.
Judge Mushtaq Khokhar noted that Ireland had attempted to continue as a reiki healer under a different name before he eventually entered guilty pleas.
Sentencing him, the judge said: ‘Because of your reputation that you had built up in this particular field, people trusted you. What you said they accepted as being right.
‘Your relationship with those women was very much akin to that of a relationship between that of a doctor and a patient which entails an enormous amount of trust...and sadly you abused that trust.’
He said pre-sentence reports had concluded he currently posed a significant risk of causing serious harm by committing similar offences and he agreed with that view.
‘You present a danger to the public for the foreseeable future,’ he said.
‘The most ironic thing which I find in this case is you were to tell a probation officer that you yourself was the subject of abuse in your childhood and it affected you. And here you were perpetrating abuse against others and not thinking for a second as to what impact it may have on your victims.’
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.