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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Coach driver 'groomed' teenage boy, Carlisle court told

A man told a court how he was sexually abused as a boy by a man who deliberately befriended him so he could take him on the foreign trips he made as a holiday coach driver.

Peter McLaughlin photo
Peter McLaughlin

Peter McLaughlin, 61, was said to have targeted the boy, knowing he was ‘vulnerable’ and in need of an understanding friend.

And he used that friendship to persuade him that the sexual activity in which they engaged in hotels all over Europe and in the UK was normal, a jury at Carlisle Crown Court was told.

McLaughlin is said to have committed the offences while driving for Redcrest, a Carlisle-based holiday company, in the early 1990s.

He faces charges only in relation to incidents alleged to have happened in the UK - in hotels and at McLaughlin’s then home in Greystone Road, Carlisle - anything abroad would have been outside the jurisdiction of British courts.

McLaughlin has denied 15 charges of indecent assault, saying he had never been on any coach trips with the boy and had never had him to stay at his house in Greystone Road, Carlisle.

Opening the case to the jury of eight women and four men, prosecuting barrister Kim Whittlestone said it was “a classic case where a young child has been groomed by an adult into believing that what was occurring to them was normal.”

She said McLaughlin, now of Murray Park, Stanley, County Durham, had started grooming the boy “from very, very early in their relationship”, so that by the time invited him to join him on his foreign trips he thought there was nothing wrong in his behaviour.

“Then he started putting into action what he had intended all along,” she said.

She said it did not matter if the boy had agreed to what McLaughlin did to him because it was illegal to have consensual sexual activity with anyone under 16.

Ms Whittlestone said the alleged victim kept it a secret for many years, though he eventually told his wife and his mother.

He reported it to the police after receiving counselling following talks with his GP.

In evidence given from behind a screen, the alleged victim, now a man in his 30s, said he looked upon McLaughlin as “cool, funny and friendly”, so went along happily with anything he suggested.

He said the first time McLaughlin abused him was after he went along to help out with such chores as loading the luggage into the coach, calling out bingo numbers to holidaymakers and generally clearing up after them.

“It was all fun, it was exciting,” he said. “To be travelling away on one of those buses was a big adventure at that age.”

He said that in a hotel in Switzerland they shared a double bed - naked - in a hotel and it was there that McLaughlin first molested him after watching soft porn films on television.

He said he had no “concerns” about what McLaughlin was doing to him, except that it was “a funny sensation” when his moustache tickled him when he was kissing him.

“It was a new experience, one that felt very good and so I didn’t question it. At that age I was not sexually experienced and I didn’t know what was happening, to be honest.

“It was pleasurable. Enjoyable. I was not made in any way to feel scared by what had happened. It was not an aggressive episode or anything like that. It was exciting.”

The jury heard that when interviewed by the police after his arrest McLaughlin denied everything, saying that a few years ago his alleged victim had phoned him, asking him to lend him £20,000.

McLaughlin said he refused and put the phone down.

The trial continues.

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