Defilement by coach was ‘serious breach of trust’

A sports coach who admitted having sexual intercourse with an 13-year-old team member was sentenced Tuesday to four years, eight months’ imprisonment.

Justice Charles Quin said the appropriate sentence was seven years, but the defendant had pleaded guilty at the earliest possible stage and had avoided a trial in which the victim would have had to give evidence and be cross-examined. The judge therefore applied the usual one-third deduction, arriving at the term of four years, eight months.

The fact that the man had taken an indecent photo of him and the girl together was treated as an aggravating factor to the charge of defilement, so a separate sentence of eight months was made concurrent. Defilement is carnal knowledge of a girl under 16; consent is not an issue because the law protects girls under 16 absolutely.

Justice Quin expressed the view that the Grand Court should “take judicial notice of the deeply disturbing fact that the offense of defilement of girls under 16 is becoming increasingly prevalent.”

Justice Quin directed that the anonymity of the victim must be strictly preserved, which meant no identification of her by name or location or by name of the sports club.

The judge emphasized the significant difference in ages between the man, 29, and the girl, 13.

“The defendant was a mature older man and what is important is that he was acting in a supervisory capacity,” Justice Quin pointed out. “The abuse of the privileged position of trust this defendant held as coach in this case is a very serious aggravating factor.

“The defendant was a coach for a team of young girls. There should be no safer haven for children, especially young girls, to spend productive and recreational time, whilst learning a skill, than by joining and playing for a young girls [sports] club. This defendant, by his actions, has transformed the environment of a young girls sports club into a place that parents now view with some apprehension and fear,” Justice Quin said.

He pointed out that a sports coach is “the very person to whom the children look for protection and guidance,” but the defendant had abused his position of trust for his own selfish sexual gratification.

Defense attorney Fiona Robertson had submitted that the man, like the girl, had considered their relationship to be real. He had genuinely wished to help her by being a companion as she was going through a difficult time, but he went too far and it led to “a monumental error of judgment.”

Ms. Robertson had disclosed that the defendant himself was the victim of sexual abuse in his early years. She submitted this was “a classic case of the abused becoming the abuser.”

Justice Quin cited information from the victim impact statement, including the negative effect on the girl’s grades in school and possible consequences for a scholarship. It appeared she had been the subject of some bullying and unpleasant behavior following the incident, forcing her to leave the sports club.

“She greatly misses being part of the team, and the fact that she has heard it said that the culpability for this incident is hers as well has caused her distress and confusion,” the judge quoted.

He also referred to aspects of the defendant’s social inquiry report, including his good school and work record, and lack of previous convictions.

However, it was noted that the defendant was warned by police in 2010 following a report of him sending inappropriate text messages to a young girl.

The defendant had maintained that his relationship with the young girl was “mutual … and caring,” Justice Quin read from the report, and this showed a lack of understanding of the impact of his behavior on the victim. The defendant should have fully realized how impossible it would be that there could be anything “right, proper, normal or legal” about a sexual relationship with such a young girl, the judge commented.

The probation officer writing the report said the defendant would benefit from a sex offending intervention program to reduce his risk of further similar offending. However, “No such programs are available in the prison or community of the Cayman Islands.”

Given the lack of such a program, Justice Quin ordered that the defendant undergo regular psychiatric and medical assessments while in custody to monitor his attitude and behavior.