Paul Gillespie, an award-winning North Ayrshire Council Youth Worker, was found guilty of assaulting three young women, whilst pretending to carry out health checks.
The 23-year-old assaulted the girls between November 2015 and December 2016 under the pretence of examining them and being concerned about their health. This often took place when Gillespie was giving them lifts in a North Ayrshire Council vehicle.
Gillespie denied the three charges but was found guilty after the trial at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court. Witnesses during the case were other young people who were given lifts to and from events by youth workers, which is typical and occurs on a casual basis. Gillespie’s victims, however, stated that they thought he was “genuinely helping them”. It was only when another youth worker found out and reported him that they realised how serious his actions were.
One victim who has asthma was just 15 years old. He pulled over during the car journey, asking her to pull her t-shirt up. He then touched her body, including her breasts, with a stethoscope. As she gave the evidence, sobbing, she said that she felt uncomfortable and vulnerable, and “thought he was doing it in my best interests.”
A second victim, aged 17 when he assaulted her, stated:
“It was the day after my dad died. I was very vulnerable at that point in time and Paul was the only person I could trust. I confided in him and I felt he used it against me. He would say, ‘I’m doing this to look out for you’. Then he would say, ‘Don’t tell anyone, this is between me and you’.”
The third women also said that he asked her to lift up her t-shirt and checked her blood pressure and blood sugar, and touched her body, including her breasts. She said that Gillespie told her “I’m doing this as a friend, not your youth worker and it’s between us.”
Fiscal Jennifer Harkins said that there was an element of coercion and that he abused his position of trust. Gillespie’s solicitor Neil McPherson suggested that Gillespie was trying to make himself seem important and to impress the girls, and if it were for sexual gratification, the girls would have known immediately for it would have been more abusive. Ultimately, however, Sheriff Michael Hanlon said he was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt” that assault had taken place. He called for reports and a full risk assessment.
Paul Gillespie must complete 300 unpaid work hours and is banned from unsupervised contact with girls younger than 17. He has also been placed on the Sex Offenders Register.