A respected businessman has walked free from court after admitting sexually abusing two young girls he met through the church more than 40 years ago.
David O’Riordan, 79, pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault in respect of the sisters- who can not be named for legal reasons.
Friends of O’Riordan - who was highly regarded within his church - described his as a “True Christian” and said he was popular with children.
But one of his victims, now in her late 40s, said she lost her Catholic faith after she was indecently assaulted by O’Riordan, saying: “It makes me sick he can say a few Hail Marys after confession and think he is forgiven.”
Preston Crown Court heard O’Riordan, of Ashworth Drive, Hest Bank, Lancaster was friendly with the girls’ parents and the families would visit each others’ homes.
But in separate incidents several years apart, O’Riordan indecently assaulted the girls as they sat on his knee to watch TV, Preston Crown Court heard.
One of the sisters - who had been told to keep the assault secret by O’Riordan - confided in her parents in the 1990s when she wanted to ensure her own children would be safe from her attacker.
A family friend confronted O’Riordan and he admitted he had touched the girl.
But in a victim impact statement the woman said she had seen high profile historic sex abuse cases in the media - such as TV personality Stuart Hall - and felt unable to live with her secret.
She and her sister reported their attacks in 2014 and O’Riordan pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault at Preston Crown Court.
Judge Jacqueline Beech, sentencing, said: “Seeing you behave as though nothing had happened has had a profound effect on her.
“She has formed a sinister view of men - she doesn’t trust them and doesn’t let her children be left alone with them.
“She lost her Catholic faith because of her perception that the church embraced you despite what you had done.”
The court heard O’Riordan has never been in court before and there is no suggestion he abused any other youngsters.
The other sister, now in her 50s, said she had suffered no lasting psychological damage as a result of the attack but felt guilty that her sister and parents had suffered as a result of what O’Riordan had done.
But he told a probation officer he thought reporting him in 2014 was “a bit of a mean thing to do” as he had already suffered damage to his reputation and social life when he was confronted in the 1990s.
Judge Beech said: “It is clear you were dismissive of the extent of potential harm to your victims and you were generally dismissive of them.
“You didn’t think you had betrayed the trust of the family.
“Your attitude is surprising and in contradiction to the many favourable testimonials this court has before it.”
She handed the defendant a 17 month sentence suspended for two years after taking into account his previous good character, age and health problems.
She ordered him to pay £3,000 compensation to one of his victims and £750 to another, adding: “You should count yourself very fortunate that you are not going to prison today and I am sure the complainants may very well wish you had.”