‘It brings things to a full stop’: Former Boy’s Brigade leader jailed for historic abuse of brothers

Victim says failure to protect his younger sibling from Gordon Black (73) will remain like a ‘stain on my soul’

A former Boy’s Brigade leader has been sentenced to three years in prison for sexual offences against two brothers from Co Wicklow more than 40 years ago in a case which a court heard involved “a high level of grooming”.

Gordon Black (73) pleaded guilty at Wicklow Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of indecent assault on the younger brother on unknown dates between 1977 and 1982.

Black, a widower and father of three of Mill Meadows, Arklow, also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of indecent assault on the victim’s older brother on an unknown date between 1978 and 1980. The court heard the retired van salesman knew his victims through sports and Boys’ Brigade connections and was a family friend.

Gardaí were contacted by the brothers, now aged 55 and 59, after they read a news report about Black receiving a suspended sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in 2020 for indecently assaulting a young boy in the 1960s.


‘Red rag to a bull’

The court heard the younger victim was “enraged and upset” that the report suggested it had been a one-time offence. “It was like a red rag to a bull when he read the article,” said prosecutor James Kelly BL.

The victims had raised concerns about Black’s role as a captain in the Boys’ Brigade with a Church of Ireland rector in Arklow in 1996, which led to his immediate departure from the organisation. However, the brothers did not report him to gardaí at the time as they were incorrectly advised that their names could become public.

When questioned by gardaí about the abuse reported by the brothers, Black confessed and revealed he had been abused as a child.

Det Garda Kevin Donnegan gave evidence that the first offence against the younger brother, then aged nine, occurred at a hall in Co Wexford during a Boys’ Brigade camp in around 1976.

Det Garda Donegan said Black put his hand inside the boy’s pyjamas while he was asleep and touched his penis before taking his victim’s hand and placing it on his own penis.

On another occasion, the boy was abused in Black’s bedroom after being invited to stay overnight in his house. Another time, Black was interrupted by the boy’s older brother when he was in a bedroom with the victim during a party in their family home, while their parents and others were downstairs.

Judge Patrick Quinn observed that the offences involved “a high level of grooming”.

The court heard Black assaulted the older brother one night when they were stopped in a car while out hunting rabbits by trying to open his victim’s trousers. The boy’s quick thinking by accelerating off at speed prevented more serious abuse.

‘A stain on my soul’

The older brother told the court that he felt he had failed to protect his younger and more vulnerable brother from Black’s evil actions which he claimed would “remain forever like a stain on my soul”.

Black, who is now estranged from his family, insisted that there were no other victims of his abuse apart from the three males whose cases had come before the courts. Counsel for Black, Eoin Gallagher BL, said his client fully apologised and acknowledged the pain and upset he had caused.

A probation report assessed Black as being at a moderate risk of re-offending and said he had a limited understanding of the impact of his offences on his victims.

Judge Quinn said Black had engaged an “a continuous series of sexual abuse over a protracted period of time which destroyed the innocence of two little boys”.

Sentencing Black to five years in prison, he said he would suspend the final two years on condition that the defendant have no unauthorised contact with anyone under 18 on his release.

Speaking afterwards, the younger brother said: “It’s a great relief. With that sentence, it brings things to a full stop.”