Blackburn swimming coach jailed for grooming underage student

A TRUSTED swimming coach who groomed one of his underage teen athletes before embarking on a sexual relationship with her has been jailed.

The details of John McGinty’s offending were outlined to a judge this week, where it was heard the 59-year-old would pay the girl to do jobs and buy her affections with gifts, such as tickets to watch Manchester United.

Highly sexualised messages between the pair, which were recovered during the police investigation, revealed how McGinty got the child to call him ‘Captain’.

The swimming coach, who taught at clubs in Blackburn, Accrington, Preston and Bolton, was exposed when the victim’s sister became suspicious of the amount of time the teenager was spending with him.

She traced her younger sibling to a car park in East Lancashire via the iPhone app Find My Friend, and decided to check on her, bringing their brother along.

Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said: “They drove onto the car park when the victim’s brother spotted a Nissan Navara.

“As he got closer, he could see the defendant’s back and buttocks as he was lying down in the driver’s seat on top of the girl, with his face just an inch from hers as she lay on her back in the driver’s seat, which was pushed all the way back.

“As soon her brother opened the door the defendant moved to face him and said ‘you brought your brother?’

“He started to say that they had got it all wrong and that she was just upset. The girl appeared shocked and upset and told them that he was her best friend.”

The court heard how the victim’s sister took her phone from her and started to look through her messages, where she found sexual communication between the pair including McGinty referring to his penis as the ‘monster in my pants’.

Messages included the victim telling McGinty that she was in love with him, and the exchange of naked photographs.

When the car was searched by officers, a bottle of lubricant was found under the seat.  

Concerns had been previously raised about McGinty showing favouritism and the swimming club’s safeguarding manager had warned him to not offer lifts or travel with children alone in his car.

McGinty agreed, but soon started spending time alone with the girl and was again warned about his conduct following a further incident. Shortly after, a new code of conduct was issued and circulated to the defendant and club’s members.

During the course of these conversations, it was also revealed how McGinty was also reprimanded for paying for another of his students to do lifeguard training.

Jailing McGinty, of the Handbridge, Fulwood, for 27 months for counts of sexual communication with a child, meeting a child following sexual grooming, sexual activity with a child and the possession of indecent photos, Judge Graham Knowles QC described McGinty as a self-centred man who had tried to blame his actions on others.

He said: “You were a swimming coach and she an enthusiastic and committed swimmer.

“You knew that she had problems at home and you knew too that she was upset about having split up with a boyfriend.

“You began to groom her. You groomed her with treats and overpayment for work and more. You relied on the trust that the club, her family, your family and others put in you as a coach in order to get away with these offences.

“You also relied on her devotion to you. You were undeterred by concerns expressed by the club’s safeguarding officers and caught out when the victim’s family tracked her iPhone.”

Judge Knowles QC went on the describe the sexual nature of the messages between the pair including some which were sent while the teen was in biology lessons at school.

He added: “I do not know whether those are all references to sexual acts that had taken place, reference to ejaculation, oral sex or whether they are not so stark as they may seem. But clearly it is a sexualised conversation.

“Coupling all of that with the presence of the lubricant and where you were at the time you were caught is significant to the realities of this case.”

He continued: “You are, in many respects self-centred and you were with this victim. You were when you were silent in every police interview and you were when you lied to probation officers. You justified yourself to him at every turn, denied the offences and blamed everyone else including at times, your victim. Even now, you will not admit what you have pleaded guilty to – that is commit sexual offences against a child whose coach you were, for your sexual pleasure.”

McGinty will be placed on the sex offenders register and banned from working with children.

He was not made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.