January 2012

York karate ace jailed for 5 years for child abuse

HE WAS World and European champion, at the top of his sport. But today, York karate ace Liam O’Grady is a “public disgrace” starting five years in jail for sexually abusing one of his sporting trainees.

The 30-year-old paedophile wept in the dock as the Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, spelled out the consequences of his prolonged grooming and exploitation of the girl, starting when she was 12, including a lifetime ban on working with children again.

“You have brought this upon yourself,” he told O’Grady.

Within an hour of sentence being passed at York Crown Court, the Karate Union of Great Britain announced he had been expelled from the sport that brought him fame and success.

His barrister, Jason Macadam, said: “He has lost his livelihood, he has lost his position in the sporting world. It is right to say he is a public disgrace following these convictions.”

Outside court, Joe Cocker, manager of City of York Safeguarding Children Board, praised the “incredible courage” of the girl and her friends who all gave evidence at O’Grady’s trial. The girl’s friends went to the authorities because they were alarmed at what she had told them.

“What he did was not only abusive in terms of the acts he was found guilty of, but also abusive in his cynical manipulation of this 12-year-old young girl,” said Mr Cocker.

“Her courage stands in stark contrast to his reprehensible pursuit of self-interest and cowardice.”

Det Insp Shaun Page, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “O’Grady’s arrogance and repeated denials of the offences he committed meant that rather than pleading guilty when he had the chance, he has subjected his victim and her family to the further turmoil of a lengthy court process.

“I hope this sentence makes O’Grady face up to the fact that what he has done is sick and completely unacceptable. I also hope that the end of this case can bring some comfort to the victim and her family and helps them move on with their lives.”

O’Grady, who moved from Osbaldwick to Flintshire in Wales after he was charged, denied one charge of grooming a child for sex and three of sexual activity with a child, but was convicted by a York jury last month. Mr Macadam said O’Grady continued to protest his innocence.

In addition to the jail term, O’Grady was put on the sex offenders’ register, made subject to a sexual offences prevention order and banned from working with children, all for life.

The judge said he was a high-achieving sportsman.

“But success in sport and the adulation it brings doesn’t, of course, provide immunity from the consequences of criminal behaviour, very serious criminal behaviour as I judge this to be.

“It may be your sporting prowess had given you a degree of confidence. It was possible you believed you could get away with it because of your position.”

The judge said O’Grady had betrayed the trust the girl’s parents had placed in him to look after their child while training her and “played” his wife and the girl off against each other. When he committed the worst offence – in the toilets of the sports centre he and his wife ran – she was approaching or actually in the building at the time.

Mr Cocker praised the police for their “determination and tenaciousness”, the child’s school for supporting the child and her friends and acting on their information, York social care and the team work between the agencies.

O’Grady’s wife, Lisa, gave evidence for the defence but was not in court to see her husband sentenced. Mr Macadam said the future of O’Grady’s family was “extremely uncertain”.

The defence team handed in testimonials from family, friends and work colleagues.