A self-styled hypnotherapist and spiritual healer from Birmingham who sexually abused young women during naked “spiritual” massage sessions has been jailed for eight and a half years.

In sentencing Peter Knight, Judge William Davis QC said: “You abused a position of trust time and time again. You had set yourself up as a hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and spiritual healer, pretending you had qualifications you did not have.

“I am satisfied you preyed on vulnerable and credulous women who happened to have young female children who you preyed upon likewise.

“It is a feature of this case that your victims by and large had mothers ... and through them you got to their children.”

He said the victim who was most seriously abused feared the “ultimate” was going to happen to her and went on: “The distress and anguish she displayed giving evidence was evident to all.”

Judge Davis noted that the mothers of the victims had plainly been in Knight's thrall, a fact which made the offences particularly serious.  The court heard that the mother of one of the victims still believed that the self-styled healer was innocent.

Knight, 75, of Edgbaston, who was found guilty of 16 charges of indecent assault and three of indecency with a child following a trial at the city’s crown court last month, was also ordered to register as a sex offender for life.

John Attwood, prosecuting, said Knight had taken advantage of the power he had over his patients in order to indulge in his own sexual desires.

He said the offences took place back in the 1980s and 1990s when Knight provided a variety of treatments from addresses in Lansdowne Road, Erdington, and Selsey Road, Edgbaston, to people who came to him with problems.

Knight gave counselling, hypnotherapy, massage and tarot card readings and many of his patients came to regard him as a wise and powerful man.

Mr Attwood said those who went to see him were often vulnerable and needy in one way or another and although he did help some the defendant had a darker side, being manipulative and predatory.

He said two of the victims were sisters and that Knight had initially treated their mother, giving her private lessons in tarot card reading.

He said during hypnotherapy sessions, after telling them to relax and close their eyes, Knight persuaded both the girls to lay naked on a treatment table.

Knight then, with both victims “at his mercy”, indecently assaulted them during massage sessions, which he claimed were for their spiritual wellbeing.

Mr Attwood said another young girl who Knight abused during naked massage sessions was told by him the eczema she suffered from would return if she told anyone else what was going on.

Knight, who had denied the charges, had claimed that he did not have any sexual interest in the young girls.

David Mason, defending, said Knight was not a well man and that they were old offences.

He said since he had suffered a stroke in 2006 he had not treated anybody for anything and that for him prison would be very difficult.