Youth club volunteer preyed on victim, 13

A serial sex predator used a specially adapted youth club van to prey on a vulnerable 13-year-old girl.

Richard Blackburn, a volunteer at the Congregational Church Youth Club in Raphoe, Co Donegal, attacked Rachel McAuley for up to two years and even put a bed in the vehicle.

Ms McAuley yesterday waived her anonymity so that Blackburn could be named in court.

He groomed his victim at the youth club between 2000 and 2002. Ms McAuley was 13 when the abuse began and was just short of her 15th birthday when it ended.

She went to gardaí in 2011 to reveal the tale of abuse.

Letterkenny Circuit Court heard how Blackburn bought his victim presents, including a mobile phone, so he could keep in touch.

Blackburn, aged 57, of Carnone, Raphoe, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault. Ms McAuley said in her victim impact statement read to the court that he had abused her “daily” between 2000 and 2002.

Detective Garda Ciaran Brolly said Ms McAuley was unable to return from abroad to attend the court but wanted it to know she had waived her right to anonymity so Blackburn could be identified.

He read her statement to Judge John O’Hagan in which she described how the incidents had destroyed her life, making her constantly nervous and unable to sleep.

Blackburn would abuse her on trips back from Raphoe Youth Club to her grandmother’s house in Convoy.

On one occasion he had driven the van, with a sofa-bed in the back and curtains to stop anyone seeing in, to a secluded spot known as The Spire in Convoy. He had then sexually assaulted the girl.

“I didn’t have my life,” said Ms McAuley. “I had my innocence taken away, my teenager years didn’t exist at all. People can look back at their teenage years with happy memories but I cannot do that because it was dark, scary, and life-altering.”

She said her parents were Blackburn’s best friends.

The court heard Blackburn helped run the Congregational Church Youth Club for 12- to 18-year-olds.

During one attack on Ms McAuley, a garda patrol stopped to check on the van, which was parked on Barnesmore Gap, Co Donegal.

Blackburn jumped into the front of the vehicle and told gardaí he had stopped for a sleep. Gardaí left not realising Ms McAuley, then aged 14, was in the back.

Judge O’Hagan said while reports state Blackburn is at a low risk of reoffending, the breach of trust in the case was extremely serious. He said the pervert had known Ms McAuley’s age very well because he had known her since was a baby. The attacks had left “deep scars” on the victim, he said.

He jailed Blackburn for two years, suspending the last year for 12 months, on each of the three counts and placed Blackburn on the sex offenders register for 10 years.


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