Gymnastics coach jailed for child sexual abuse - Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead

21/08/2015

A gym coach, who sexually abused girls he was training, received an 18 year sentence today, Friday, 21 August 2015.

Graham Oliver, aged 58, was given a 12 year jail term with another 6 years extended sentence where he will be on licence and liable to be returned to jail.

Judge Andrew Bright QC told Oliver: "You have taken the innocence and ruined the childhood of your victims."

St Albans Crown Court heard that Oliver assaulted five victims in Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead over 38 years from 1977 to this year.

He was caught after one woman went to the police telling them what happened to her when she was aged 14 to 16 between 1978 and 1981. The middle aged woman read her victim personal statement to the court, in which she said: "I am physically sick when I look back at my gymnastics memorabilia."

As a result of the abuse at the hands of Oliver, she said she had been unable to distinguish between love and abuse and had missed out on the chance to have children.

Sally Mealing-McLeod, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the police launched an investigation in April this year after they were contacted by the first victim. She had been abused at the gym club, at his home where they had gone to watch a gym video and in Gadebridge Park in Hemel.

Oliver assaulted the second victim twice between 1977 and 1981 when she was aged between 12 and 15. The third was aged 12 in 1977 and 1978. She said she had been assaulted on about 5 occasions. The fourth victim was 10 in 2000 when she was abused on two occasions. The fifth victim was aged 5 in 2014 and 2015.

Oliver, now of Heol Fedw, Swansea, pleaded guilty to 11 charges of indecent assault and 2 of assault by penetration.

Henry Day, defending, said he had no previous convictions and had indicated a guilty plea at the earlier opportunity. "He is ashamed of himself and acknowledges what he did was wrong," he said.

Judge Bright told Oliver: "You have been a serial child abuser for 38 years and caused the most appalling damage to the lives of the girls concerned."

Oliver must register as a Sex Offender for life and abide by the terms of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order. He is banned from ever working with children again.

Adrian Foster, Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved sexual activity between a gymnastics coach, who is now 58-years-old, and five girls, who were aged 5-16 at the time of the offences, which occurred between April 1977 and April 2015 in Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted.

"As a coach, Graham Oliver abused his position of trust and took advantage of his status to prey on young girls and sexually abuse them for his own sexual gratification.  It is only due to the great courage of the victims that the despicable behaviour of this man has been exposed.  I would like to pay tribute to them for their strength and tenacity in coming forward.

"Oliver denied any sexual wrongdoing or inappropriate conduct during police interviews.  However, he recognised that justice had caught up with him and on Wednesday, 29 July 2015, at St Albans Crown Court, due to the strength of the evidence against him, he pleaded guilty to all thirteen counts on the indictment including Indecent Assault x11 and Assault of a child under 13 by penetration x2.  This saved the victims from having to re-live their sexual abuse and give evidence.

"The conviction and todays sentence serves as an important message to people who have been the victim of crimes such as these, or those that know such crimes are being committed, that they should come forward and that time is no barrier to justice.  The CPS will work closely with partners, as we did with Hertfordshire Constabulary in this case, to ensure that robust criminal cases are put before the courts.

"The emotional impact, on the victims and their families, of the abhorrent actions of this man is impossible to quantify. I hope that the conviction and sentence gives some small comfort to them.  Our thoughts are very much with them all at this time."

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