Ex-international rugby player faces jail over sex abuse

A FORMER Scottish international rugby player is facing a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of subjecting two women to terrifying sexual abuse ordeals.

Norman Pender, 65, of Cavers, repeatedly sexually abused two females over an 11 -year period in the 1980s and 1990s.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard how Pender, who was capped for his country in the 1970s, preyed on the women at various addresses in Hawick between April 1986 and October 1997.

One of his victims, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told the court that the abuse started when she was eight-years-old and continued until she was 19.

Pender started abusing his second victim in January 1996 when she was aged just nine-years-old. The former used car salesman continued to abuse her until she was 11.

Yesterday (Thursday), a jury of nine women and six men returned verdicts of guilty to three charges of using lewd and libidinous behaviour towards the women. They also returned a verdict of guilty on one charge of sexual assault after spending two days deliberating their verdicts.

They returned a verdict of not proven to an allegation that he repeatedly raped his first victim.

The court heard that Pender was a first offender and defence solicitor advocate Iain Paterson asked judge Lord Stewart to continue his client’s bail.

The court heard that Pender wanted to spend time with his sick wife and his mother, who is in her 90s.

But Lord Stewart refused and remanded Pender in custody saying it wouldn’t be in the interests of justice for him to remain at liberty.

He deferred sentence to next month in order for the court to obtain reports about Pender’s character and warned that jail time would be a “probable” outcome.

Relatives of Pender’s wept as the judge said: “I am going to revoke bail. You have been convicted of some very serious offences.”

Pender then replied: “Thank you my Lord,” before being accompanied to the court room cells by two security guards.

The story emerged following a six-day trial at the High Court in Edinburgh involving Pender, who was capped four times for Scotland in the late 1970s and played his club rugby for Hawick.

He served as a Lib Dem councillor on Scottish Borders Council between 1998 and 2003; and was also the chairman of the Hawick Lady Riders’ Association, an organisation set up to campaign for women to ride horses at Hawick Common-Riding.

On the first day of the trial, Pender’s first victim told prosecution lawyer Alison Di Rollo exactly what the retired sportsman did to her.

The woman, who gave her evidence behind a screen, took a deep breath as she described in horrifying detail how she was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

When Ms Di Rollo, the head of the Crown Office’s national sex crimes prosecution unit, asked her whether she gave her consent to these acts taking place, the woman replied: “No.”

The advocate depute then asked the woman how she felt after the alleged abuse took place. She replied: “Dirty, sick, lonely, ashamed.”

When Ms Di Rollo asked her how many times the sex attacks took place, the woman replied: “Far too many times to count.”

The woman also said that Pender discouraged her from telling anybody what was happening.

She said: “He said that I was a child and that nobody would believe me.”

The woman also told the court that she told a boyfriend about the abuse when she was in her late teens.

However, the court heard that she didn’t contact the police until many years later.

Pender denied the charges.

But yesterday, a jury chose not to accept his claims of innocence, returning guilty verdicts.

Following conviction, Pender, who was wearing a navy pinstriped suit, sat in the dock shaking his head in disbelief at the jury’s decisions.

He bowed his head as Mr Paterson asked Lord Stewart to continue his bail.

The solicitor advocate said his client knew that it was highly likely that he would be given a prison sentence.

Mr Paterson added: “I would ask your lordship to continue his bail in order to get his personal affairs in order. His wife is in poor health and he wishes to spend time in her company.

“He also has a mother who is very old – she is in her 90s and he wishes to spend time with her prior to his incarceration.”

However, Ms Di Rollo said that to continue Pender’s bail would be inappropriate.

She added: “It would offend the public interest if Mr Pender was to have his liberty continued.”

Lord Stewart agreed and ordered Pender to be taken into custody prior to his sentencing hearing next month.

The judge told Pender: “I suspect that you have been well prepared for this eventuality. It would not be in the interests of justice for you to remain on bail. I am therefore remanding you in custody.”

Pender then thanked the judge and headed to the cells.

One of Pender’s daughters then shouted: “Love you dad.”

Pender, who has also been placed on the Sex Offenders Register, will be sentenced at the High Court in Paisley on January 15.