A former children’s football coach has been jailed after he abused his position to groom and sexually abuse young boys.
Paul Whelan, 57, formerly of Maida Vale, Anchorsholme, was a volunteer at two junior football clubs in Thornton at the time of the offences in the 1970s and 1990s.
He was yesterday jailed for three years and three months after pleading guilty to three counts of indecent assault, relating to two victims.
Preston Crown Court heard how he used his status as a coach at Churchills, in Thornton,in the 1970s to convince one young boy to come to his home .
He then began to ask the 10-year-old inappropriate questions, such as: “Are you a virgin?”
He persuaded the boy to undress before assaulting him twice.
The court heard that two other young boys had also alleged Whelan had brought them to his room and attempted to persuade them to take off their clothes.
Referring to a statement made by Whelan’s first victim, Paul Brookwell, prosecuting, said: “He had heard other pupils at school discussing the defendant, calling him a paedophile.
“That had an effect on him, causing him feelings of shame. He knew he had done nothing wrong but the feelings remained.
“He said it would live with him forever, and that it has blighted his life.”
Whelan also pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting a 15-year-old in the 1990s.
Using his position as a coach at Wyre Juniors, he lured the teenager into his home. Whelan, in his 30s at the time, sat the boy down on a chair and began touching his legs.
His victim came forward last year after reading in the news about a footballer who had been abused.
Whelan was interviewed by police in January and April 2016, and again in January 2017. He denied the allegations and said he struggled to remember the boys. He initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea when the case went to trial in August.
Alexander Menary, defending, said Whelan was ‘socially awkward’ and ‘immature’, and that he was unlikely to repeat his offences.
He said: “This is a man well thought of by his colleagues and those who know him.”
“This defendant has received hate mail which has been posted to his employer falsely claiming that he had confessed to everything and that he would be labelled as a paedophile.”
Sentencing, His Honour Judge Adkin said the crime had left one of his victims ‘angry’ and ‘suspicious about men with children’.
“Not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about it,” he added.
He added: “There was a measure of planning and deception by you.
“You assaulted the victims; you groomed them and took advantage of their naivete and willingness to please a figure in authority.
“This offending is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.”