Former Bellshill and Mossend YMCA manager is jailed for sex offences

A former YMCA manager has been jailed for 18 months for sex offences involving vulnerable teenage girls he was supposed to be helping.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 11:11 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 12:26 pm
Stephen Henderson
Stephen Henderson

Stephen Henderson, 32, was told he had betrayed the trust placed in him with his "appalling" behaviour.

Henderson, of Main Street, Holytown, was manager of Bellshill and Mossend YMCA when he groomed the girls who had turned to the charity for support.

He was convicted of communicating indecently with two girls aged under 16 and meeting one of them with the intention of engaging in unlawful sexual activity.

A jury at Hamilton Sheriff Court heard the offences happened between August 2013 and December 2017.

One of the girls was 13 when Henderson first targeted her and the other was 15.

One of the girls said Henderson asked her 'What would happen if I asked you to kiss me? What would you do if I asked to have sex with you?'

She claimed the comments were made after he gave her a lift home following evening activity at the YMCA.

Defence agent Ian Scott said he hoped there were enough positive factors in background reports to persuade the court that Henderson is "not a danger to the public".

He suggested his client could be spared a prison sentence.

But Sheriff Colin Dunipace said only jail was appropriate.

He told Henderson: "You were employed by a charity designed to offer young people space in which they can feel secure and respected, and an environment where they can be supported.

"This organisation often deals with vulnerable young people who have experienced difficult times and are desperate for support, encouragement and guidance in addressing their issues. These girls gave clear accounts of their background difficulties and explained how they sought assistance from the YMCA.

"They were extremely vulnerable, but you abused their trust. Their evidence was harrowing. Your behaviour clearly had an impact on their lives and it is to their credit that they have taken steps to move on.

"There was a pattern of grooming when they should have been able to believe that you would look after their interests. That makes the crimes all the more appalling."

Sheriff Dunipace said he was also concerned at the "possible reputational consequences" for the YMCA of Henderson's conduct.

He acknowledged Henderson was a first offender and had assisted others during his career.

However, his conduct had been "calculating and protracted" and a prison sentence was necessary.

Henderson will be under supervision for 18 months on his release. He will be on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.

The court heard that he attended the YMCA as a 14-year-old and went on to become a volunteer worker. He secured paid employment and rose to become manager.

Henderson said the organisation was an important influence on him in his teenage years. He told the court: "I had been through a tough time and could have taken a different path had it not been for the help of youth workers."

Henderson said one-to-one contact with vulnerable teenagers was important as it allowed them to "open up" about their problems. Issues discussed included bullying, drugs and alcohol, sexual health and self-harming.

Henderson was suspended from his post in 2019 when allegations against him were made.

The YMCA carried out an investigation and police were alerted.