Ex-youth leader jailed for 12 years

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A WELL-KNOWN ex-youth leader and councillor who lived a double life as a paedophile is behind bars for 12 years after his sordid past caught up with him two decades on.

John Duffy, now 51, had lived in the Colne area, where people genuinely believed he was a good man all his life. About 20 years ago, then married and with young children, he had started to throw himself into community life and became well thought of.

But, under the cover of respectability and his reputation for good works, Duffy groomed a besotted schoolgirl and had “hundreds” of secret sex sessions with her. The girl, whose life went completely off the rails because of his conduct, was left a heartbroken drunk and suicidal at his hands, a court was told.

Duffy, said to have spent all night with the girl when his then wife was in hospital after having a baby, got the schoolgirl pregnant when she was 15. Her mother arranged for an abortion, after which the girl was distraught, but when the girl told Duffy about the termination she claimed he was not bothered and was only interested in when sex could start again, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told how the sessions came to an end after the girl later got pregnant again, had a miscarriage and Duffy seemed to lose interest in her. The teenager thought, at 16, she was getting too old for the defendant.

Duffy, of Skipton Road, Colne, had recently been found guilty by a jury of 21 counts of indecent assault and one allegation of gross indecency between 1989 and 1994. He had originally faced eight charges of rape, 13 counts of indecent assault and the child indecency charge and had denied them all. He was cleared of the rape counts and eight of the indecent assaults he was convicted of were alternative allegations.

The defendant, who was running The Lunch Box takeaway and sandwich shop in Colne with his partner until he was remanded after the trial, was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and was banned from working with children. Duffy, a former parish councillor, had no previous convictions.

The court had been told how Duffy, at the time in his late 20s, married with young children and a leader at a youth club, started his indecent behaviour towards the girl after befriending her when she was about 11.

He started to stroke her hair, kiss her and tell her she was pretty, quite quickly moved on to touching her and then had sex with her “hundreds of times” over four years, starting when she was about 12. The sessions took place in a house, the youth club and his car.

Prosecutor Miss Alison Mather had told the court: “The defendant promised her the earth and abused her over a number of years.”

Miss Mather said Duffy had told the girl they would get married and had shown her holiday brochures of where he said they would go. She allowed him to have sex with her to try and win his love and took part in indecent acts because the defendant told her that’s what people who loved each other did.

The prosecutor continued: “She listened to him and believed him and thought he loved her. She loved him and was completely infatuated with him. “

The mother of the complainant had told the jury of her “complete shock” and disbelief when her daughter told her, when she was 15, that Duffy had made her pregnant.

She said: “He was a leader, wasn’t he? He was always with children. He was just so charming and nice.” The mother told the court how the girl’s father knew nothing about the termination at the time. She said: “He would have killed John Duffy.”

The complainant, who is now in her 30s and from the Pendle area, went to the police in July last year. Duffy was arrested and said her allegations were just not true. Giving evidence to the jury, the defendant, a former pub chef, had alleged nothing sexual went on between the two of them and that the claims about what happened were a “figment of her imagination.” He had claimed: “She may have been 12 when she started on a sexual adventure, but it wasn’t with me.”

Miss Mather told the sentencing hearing that the complainant, who had started drinking heavily and made suicide attempts after the pregnancy termination, had made a victim personal statement. The prosecutor continued: “She says she is elated that the matters have now come to light and that she can move on with her life, having had many, many years of difficulties.”

Mr Jeremy Lasker, defending Duffy, said he had been with his current partner 10 years and they had a business together. The defendant was dismayed at being convicted.

The barrister continued: “This has completely ruined his life. He has lived all his life in the Colne area. He’s well known there and was well respected. He involved himself in many local activities. All that, effectively, has now been put to an end.”

Sentencing, Judge Andrew Woolman told Duffy: “It is an aggravating feature that you were a youth leader, and to some extent, exploited that position.”

The judge described the pregnancy termination as a “really tragic event” in the complainant’s life and said she was extremely upset about having an abortion. He continued: “It’s a highly aggravating feature that this happened. She eventually told you and she says you were not bothered and was only interested in continuing the sexual relationship.

“Your conviction has been a shock to you. It’s been a shock to many other people who genuinely believed that you were a good man. In many other respects you were a good man and did good works for the community and it was a cover to what was going on of a sexual nature underneath.”