Badminton coach jailed for sexual assaults

 

A 14-year-old schoolgirl was forced to play a game of strip badminton with her coach who went on to sexually abuse her for 18 months during the 1970s, Galway Circuit Court heard yesterday.

The victim had to remove an item of clothing each time she lost a point in privately held one-to- one practice games against coach Christopher McNevin at the Town Hall in Gort, Co Galway.

Sentencing McNevin to 18 months in prison, Judge Carroll Moran said he had done a "pretty bestial thing". McNevin (62), from Glenbrack, Gort, is married and has a grown-up family.

He had lured the girl to join the local badminton club and initially rewarded her and her sister with sweets and chocolate. He also bought presents for their parents.

He frequently walked unannounced into the girls' changing room in the Town Hall and rewarded their improving badminton performances by buying them skirts and tops and sports equipment.

The court heard it was all part of a process of grooming his vulnerable, naive 14-year-old victim for his gratification. He told her lewd jokes and showed her pornographic pictures.

In 1977 he took her on a trip in his truck to Limerick. On the return journey, he pulled into a lay- by and kissed her and sexually assaulting her. Later he took her to the Town Hall in Gort and sexually assaulted her on the floor, recording the event on a tape recorder. He further assaulted her in a locked tea-room in the Town Hall.

In November 1978, McNevin was driving the girl and her sister home from a badminton tournament in Loughrea when he took them to the Town Hall. He sat between the sisters, before sexually assaulting the then 15-year-old.

Yesterday in court, McNevin pleaded guilty to two sample charges of indecently assaulting the now 39-year-old woman. Sgt Michael Coppinger said McNevin only partially accepted responsibility for what had happened, claiming the girl had consented.

Gardaí also searched McNevin's home and seized more than 150 hard-core pornographic video tapes.

The victim told the court that she had suffered panic attacks, depression, low self-esteem and marital difficulties as a result of the abuse. She was receiving counselling from two professionals and was on medication.

In an emotional address to the court, she told McNevin: "Good riddance to you, my abuser. I hope you have a long, lonely, painful life." McNevin apologised and said he had suffered badly as a result of what had happened.

Judge Moran noted that McNevin had only pleaded guilty at a late stage and after a jury had been sworn in. He had done a bestial thing by taking advantage of his position of trust and abusing a young teenage girl. While the maximum sentence on each of the two counts was two years, he gave McNevin credit for pleading guilty. He imposed a prison term of 18 months.