March 2021

Lanarkshire YMCA worker preyed on vulnerable teens

A Lanarkshire youth worker who preyed on two vulnerable teenage girls, sent a topless picture and asked them about their sex life while he worked for the YMCA is facing jail.

Stephen Henderson, 31, targeted the girls aged 14 and 15 while employed as a senior staff member at the charity’s Bellshill and Mossend branch which cares for troubled youngsters.

He repeatedly contacted them via Snapchat and told them explicit details about his sex life after meeting them when they attended the group.

A trial heard Henderson groomed the 15-year-old and sent her a topless photo while he would also reveal intimate details about his private life to her.

The woman, now 20, said he repeatedly asked her questions about her sex life. 

The second victim, also now 20, said when she was 14 he asked her ‘what would happen if I kissed you? What would happen if I asked you to have sex with me?’ while they were sitting in his car.

Henderson, of Holytown, Lanarkshire, denied any wrongdoing and went on trial at Hamilton Sheriff Court but sobbed as he was convicted by a jury. 

He was found guilty of a charge of indecently communicating with the 15-year-old girl and a further charge of meeting her intending to engage in sexual activity between September 2015 and March 2017.

Henderson was also convicted of communicating indecently with the second girl between August 2013 and December 2017.

The first victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the court: “He would come and pick me up from school and then we would go for a drive and then he would talk about stuff in his life.

“He used to tell me about sex with his wife and how she wouldn’t do it the way he liked and asked me how I would do it.

“I looked up to Stephen and would never have discussed anything like that with him and when he was talking about it, I did put my guard up a bit.”

The second victim said: “If I had been out and slept with someone and he knew about it, he would ask questions about what I had done, what had happened, what I’d been asked to do and it was dead awkward and uncomfortable. 

“I could have been 14 or 15 at the time he was asking this.

“We also spoke about a place near me where teenagers go to drink and he would ask if people also went there to have sex.

“I didn’t want anything with him, not a relationship or anything. I trusted him and went to him for support.”

Henderson, who was suspended by the YMCA after allegations came to light, gave evidence and branded both women liars.

He added: “These messages I sent were not sexual. They are only being interpreted as that way in this court but the wider context would show that.

“They are not telling the truth, I took the oath and I take that very seriously so I’m 100 percent telling the truth. 

“I wasn’t interested in them and was only acting in a caring and supportive manner to try and help these girls out.”

Depute fiscal Neil Thomson urged jurors to convict Henderson.

He said: “These girls were both vulnerable and were both receiving support from Stephen Henderson but while in his car they both attribute sexual remarks to him and there are clear similarities to what they both came here to tell you.

“You may just think that Mr Henderson has come up with a string of excuses to get himself out of a very difficult situation.”

Sheriff Colin Dunipace deferred sentence on first offender Henderson until next month for reports, continued his bail and placed him on the sex offenders register.

He added: “I take on board everything that was said during the trial, your previous good character and also the fact that you undertook a lot of good work with the YMCA.

“But you have now been found guilty of taking advantage of these young vulnerable females and you should be under no illusions that the court will take an extremely serious view on these matters.”