August 2019

 Athletics coach who abused girls jailed

A former athlete and coach who groped and kissed trainees as young as 10 has been jailed for seven and a half years.

Phil Banning, 68, of Penhow, Newport abused four girls between 1976 and 1982 at Andover Athletics Club in Hampshire.

The former Welsh national coach pleaded guilty at Winchester Crown Court to 18 counts of indecent assault.

Judge Keith Cutler said Banning had groomed girls who “idolised” him, in what was a “grave abuse of trust”.

Tim Moores, prosecuting, said the offences happened during massages and at private meetings organised by Banning, from Penhow, Newport.

“Under the guise of acting as coach and mentor, Banning was in fact pursuing a regime of abuse against certain members of the club,” he said.

Banning kissed girls who queued up to go into a dark room with him during a party at his house, Mr Moores said.

The court heard he often assaulted the girls during massages at his home.

The abuse first emerged when a complainant contacted police in 2017.

She told Banning in court: “I was 10 when you started to sexually abuse me and violate my body. You left me with shame… sick with fear.”

The woman said she felt her standing at the athletics club depended on her acceptance of Banning’s “evil, sick sexual desires”.

“You destroyed almost every adult relationship I ever experienced,” she told the defendant, adding she had come close to taking her own life.

Another victim angrily pointed at Banning and told him: “I was a 13-year-old child. You were a 29-year-old man.

“I don’t understand why I didn’t say no. We were made to feel small.”

Another woman said she had kept her “dirty secret” for 41 years.

“He shattered my dreams and I felt disgusting,” she said, reading a statement.

Banning, a former Team GB runner and secondary school teacher, mouthed the word “sorry” to victims who were present in court.

Judge Cutler told Banning that as “a well-known local athlete” he had groomed the girls, seeking them as his “sexual relief”.

The judge ordered that six charges of indecent assault lie on file.