Court rules adventure centre owner fondled young boys

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A man who was jailed for 18 months in 2015 for sexually assaulting young boys 30 years ago has been found to have carried out further acts in the 1990s.

While Torquil Charles Johnson Ferguson, of Solwaybank, Chapel Knowe, Canonbie, was unfit to stand trial, an examination of the facts hearing went ahead last week in Oban Sheriff Court.

Two witnesses gave evidence from an incident that occurred at the Rua Fiola Adventure Centre, near Oban, between 1992 and 1994 and again in 1998, when they were aged 10 and 11.

One witness came forward after a television episode filmed in the Highlands triggered a memory of the adventure camp and after carrying out an online search, he remembered what had happened to him around 25 years previously.

The other phoned his old school to find the name of the outdoor centre and, after searching online, he said he saw the face of his abuser.

One witness said Ferguson fondled him when he was sleeping in a dark cave during one of the activities.

The other said the accused undressed him and repeatedly touched his genitals when he was lying in his bunk.

On Wednesday September 11, Sheriff Patrick Hughes found Ferguson to have committed the acts, though he emphasised it was not a criminal trial.

Procurator fiscal Eoin McGinty said: ‘We have heard the evidence of both the witnesses and both were the only people present, as is often the case in these type of matters.

‘The adults gave evidence about things that happened 30 years ago.’

Mr McGinty said that while the witnesses could not remember some of the ‘less important details’, they were clear about the fact they were sexually assaulted by Ferguson.

‘In my submission, the discrepancies that have been pointed out are perfectly explainable given the passage of time and the age of the complainers. They have given reliable and believable evidence and you can find the acts have been carried out.’

Ferguson’s solicitor refuted the claims on his behalf, claiming the witnesses’ statements were unreliable.

He said the first witness could not be sure who touched him and there were some inconsistencies with his evidence, such as which side Ferguson was positioned.

The solicitor added that the complainer said when he went to sleep, Fergusonwas next to him and he was awoken with an adult’s hand fondling him.

He said the complainer was unaware of Ferguson’s movements in the night, he said he could not see as the cave was dark, there were other adults in the cave, and Ferguson was not lying next to him in the morning.

And he said the second witness only able to give evidence after searching online.

Giving his verdict, Sheriff Patrick Hughes said he found both witnesses to be honest and said there was no need for them to make lengthy journeys to court unless they are true.

Sheriff Hughes stated he was satisfied Ferguson did the acts described in the charges. He added: ‘The accused has not been found guilty of a criminal offence; he has been found to have done acts which constitutes these offences.’

Ferguson will be subject to the notification requirement of the Sexual Offences Act for five years.