May 2013

Football coach spared jail after he treated members of girls’ team ‘like his personal harem’ and sexually assaulted three of them

  • Dale Strawbridge contacted the 14-year-old girls after training

  • He used details from club records to set up dates with the young players

  • 20-year-old groped one victim after taking her for a ride in his car

  • He was found guilty of four offences against three of the girls

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A young football coach who sexually assaulted three members of a girls’ under 16 team who he treated as ‘his personal harem’, was today spared jail.

Dale Strawbridge, 20, contacted the 14-year-old girls after training, using details from club records to set up dates with the young players.

He groped one after taking her for a ride in his car, kissed another in a packed dance tent at a music festival and ‘snogged’ a third after taking her on a date to a movie.

Strawbridge was cleared of the three most serious charges he faced including allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old inside the club’s locked up changing rooms.

The prosecution said he abused his position as coach and treated the girls in his under 16 team as ‘his personal harem’.

Strawbridge claimed he was the victim of a whispering campaign which led to untrue rumours spreading like wildfire in the small West Country town where the team was based.

Strawbridge, of West Hill, East Devon, denied seven counts of sexual activity with four girls who were all aged 14 at the time of the alleged offences in 2011.

He was found guilty of four offences against three of the girls. 

At Truro Crown Court today, Judge John Neligan  sentenced Strawbridge to a three year community order with supervision.

Prosecutor David Sapiecha said: ‘These girls were liable to react to flattery and attention. This was a gross abuse of trust.

‘There can be no question that he did not know how old they are. It was written on the team sheet. Under 16.

‘He knew as a coach he should not have been doing this. The warning signs were there but he drove a coach and horses through the warnings and the rules.

‘The motivation was sexual attraction. He treated these girls like they were his personal harem.’

Strawbridge told the jury he had never encouraged the girls to have any form of sexual contact with him.