A shamed Highland League stalwart who indecently assaulted two teenagers has been freed from prison.
John Henderon, a former secretary of Forres Mechanics, was sentenced to 292 days behind bars in November last year.
However, the 78-year-old’s jail term has now been overturned following a hearing before two judges at the High Court in Edinburgh due to his “age and ill-health”.
Instead, the sex offender has been given a two-year supervision order while being ordered to complete the Moving Forward Making Changes social work programme – a behavioural course designed for men who have committed similar offences. His time on the sex offenders’ register was also shortened from 10 to two years.
During the original Elgin Sheriff Court hearing, Henderson’s attacks were described as “predatory” and a “gross invasion of privacy” while he was in a position of trust – with Sheriff Olga Pasportnikov stressing nothing other than a custodial sentence was appropriate.
But at the appeal hearing, defence solicitor Duncan Henderson successfully argued for his release.
He said: “The argument remained very much the same, that he shouldn’t receive a custodial sentence.
“The court specifically states that these are serious offences but due to his age and ill-health they could deal with it in another manner.
“We made the same representations to the sheriff court and now the appeal court has accepted that.”
Henderson’s first attack, which occurred on a date in the late 1970s or early 1980s, traumatised the teen to the extent that he gave up on his football dreams.
The Forres pensioner struck up a conversation with the boy. The teen tried to get away after Henderson put his hand on his thigh and was indecently assaulted during the resulting struggle.
The second took place happened in a Forres bar in 2001 after the victim started a conversation with him after spotting he was wearing a Forres Mechanics club tie. About 30 minutes later the pensioner followed him to the pub toilets and assaulted him.
Henderson was detained for interviews by police in early 2002 but it was only after the victim from the earlier charge came forward in 2017 that an inquiry was launched.
The sex offender’s solicitor said his client was “unfit” to do unpaid work, having previously suffered a stroke.
He added: “Given his age he would find the requirements of both the social work programme and working with the police in relation to the monitoring of him as a sex offender arduous in itself.”