A youth football and swimming coach was jailed for nine months yesterday for luring young boys into his hostel bedroom and indecently assaulting them almost four decades ago.
Inverness Sheriff Court heard yesterday that 68-year-old Robert Russell had “a significant fall from grace”.
Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood was told that a number of people including an honorary Sheriff had come forward to support Russell who was described as “inspirational and generous”.
But jailing the award-winning registered football and swimming coach, the Sheriff told him: “You were in a trusted position and you deliberately chose to abuse that trust in a flagrant way. Only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”
He also criticised Russell for continuing to deny responsibility to social workers for his actions.
Russell’s secret past was only discovered when Russell wrote to one of his victims, now an adult, offering to act as a soccer scout for his two sons.
Police became involved and three other victims were traced.
Sentence had been deferred on first offender Russell, of Cooper Street, Elgin, until yesterday after he previously admitted a sexual assault on one teenager, and indecently assaulting three others.
The offences were said to have taken place between August, 1977, and August, 1984.
At the time of the offences, Russell was teaching swimming at Dingwall Sports Centre as well as being a Community Education Officer with Highland Council.
The court heard he stayed in a hostel flat in Dingwall where three of his victims were assaulted.
Russell fondled and carried out a sex act on one boy as he got ready for bed.
The court was told that two other boys who lived outside Dingwall were invited to stay in his hostel flat. He groped the buttocks of one before later exposing himself in his room. Russell then tried to grope the genitals of another.
His fourth offence took place in the swimming pool area where he molested a teenage boy.
Defence solicitor Alison Foggo said: “This is a significant fall from grace for a man who devoted his life to the care and welfare of young people.
“He has no recollection of sexually assaulting his victims. He was drinking heavily at the time and this is a possible cause for his amnesia.”
A spokesman for NSPCC Scotland said: “As a sports coach, Russell was in a position of trust over children but abused it appallingly to carry out sickening attacks on four boys.
“Survivors need to know they will be listened to and supported when they talk to the authorities about past abuse.
“We hope Russell’s conviction will give others the confidence to speak out and seek justice.”