A 57-year-old Raphoe man has been jailed for 12 months after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage girl when he was the leader in a church youth club.
Richard Blackburn of Carnone, Raphoe pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting Rachel McAuley when she was aged 13 and 14 years old between 2000 and 2002.
Letterkenny Circuit Court heard that Blackburn was a close family friend of the victim. Her late grandmother treated him like a son and her mother was a bridesmaid at his wedding. Blackburn and the victim were members of the Congregational Church.
Ms. McAuley, who now lives in the UK, waived her right to anonymity in the case. Although she did not give evidence, a victim impact statement read to court outlined the effect the crimes had on her.
“For the rest of my life, my adolescent years will remain as a life-altering, dark and scary time,” she said. “I have nightmares about what happened and I often wake up in cold sweats and am too scared to go back to sleep.”
The victim was a student at Royal and Prior school in Raphoe when the assaults were carried out. They occurred in the back of a Mercedes camper van that had a camp bed fitted in the back. Blackburn used the van to transport children to and from the youth club which was held every two weeks.
Garda Ciaran Brolly told the court that people in the community had witnessed the close relationship develop between the accused and the victim.
She worked weekends in his Land Rover servicing and repair business and he gave her a mobile phone which they used to keep in contact.
She began accompanying him on trips away at the weekend to get Land Rover parts for his business.
One of the offences occurred in the back of the van when Blackburn stopped on Barnesmore Gap on the way back from a weekend visit to Kilkenny.
When he and the victim were in the back of the van, a garda patrol car stopped and gardaí inquired why the van was there.
Blackburn told the gardaí he had stopped for a rest on the way home. Curtains in the van hid the victim from gardaí.
Judge John O’Hagan said Blackburn had betrayed a position of trust and “regardless of any impression or signal given by anyone, he must have know that what he was doing was wrong”.
He was sentenced to two years in prison on three counts to be served concurrently with the last 12 months suspended. He was also added to the sex offenders register for ten years.