A FORMER Oxfordshire magistrate is being held in prison in the US accused of sexually abusing children.

The Rev Robert Dando, a senior minister from Worcester Park Baptist Church, in south-west London, was visiting a family friend in Fairfax, Virginia, when he was arrested on July 23.

Mr Dando, 46, has been charged with four counts of aggravated sexual battery.

It is understood that when he was a magistrate in Banbury he was a member of the Oxfordshire Family Panel, which deals with child care and access proceedings.

Helen Fernandes, of the Judicial Communications Office, said: “Mr Dando was appointed as a magistrate for the Oxfordshire area on April 25, 2003.

“He transferred to Kingston, in south-west London, on June 8, 2007, and resigned as a magistrate on January 25, 2008.

“He was entitled to sit as a magistrate at any court in Oxfordshire but chose to sit at Banbury as an ordinary magistrate and was not chairman of the bench.

“He didn’t give a reason for his resignation in 2008.”

Mr Dando is being held in a jail in Virginia and will appear before Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court on September 23.

A spokesman for the Baptist Union said that Mr Dando had resigned from the church.

She added: “The church and the family would welcome some space at this difficult time.”

A spokesman for the Fairfax County Police Department said: “In December 2009, a 21-year-old victim of sexual abuse came forward to police.

“The victim, who was between eight to 13-years-old at the time of the abuse, alleges he was assaulted by a visiting family friend between 1995 and 1999.

“Police initiated an investigation and discovered a second victim, now 17-years-old, who also alleges he was abused under similar circumstances while he was around seven or eight-years-old.”

In 2005, Mr Dando took up a position as executive assistant to David Coffey, who was then president of the Baptist World Alliance.

Mr Coffey said Mr Dando’s role was voluntary and he had not been an employee of Mr Coffey or the BWA.

Mr Dando’s role came to an end when he became a pastor at Worcester Park Baptist Church in 2007.

Mr Dando’s wife Janice is one of four national vice-presidents of Boys’ Brigade, a Christian youth organisation with more than 500,000 members in 60 countries.

In 2002, Mr Dando worked at Bicester’s Orchard Baptist Fellowship, and took part in the debate about government plans for a new asylum centre at Piddington.