Ipswich athletics coach Stephen Benson jailed for rapes

Stephen Benson
Image caption Stephen Benson groomed the girls "for his sexual gratification"

An Ipswich athletics coach who committed a "terrible catalogue of abuse" has been jailed for 16 years.

Stephen Benson, 50, of Copdock, Suffolk, was found guilty of nine counts of rape and 10 sex charges against three teenage girls.

Passing sentence, Judge David Goodin said Benson, a coach at Ipswich Harriers Athletics Club, had "grossly abused" the confidence of the girls.

The offences were carried out between 1989 and 2011.

During the trial at Ipswich Crown Court, the jury heard how Benson was a regular at the family homes of the young athletes, and committed some of the offences in the girls' bedrooms.

'Groomed to succumb'

Judge Goodin said Benson, who was also a PE teacher at Copleston High School in Ipswich, had been held in "high regard" as an athletics coach.

"In that privileged position you made a great and positive difference to many of your charges," the judge said.

"Behind that lay a darker and sinister side to your character.

"As you groomed these three young athletes for success on the track you groomed them also to succumb to your sexual demands."

The judge said Benson had made it clear that if the victims rejected him they would "lose the success which meant so much to them".

Benson had been found not guilty of a further two counts of rape, after a three-week trial in March.

He had denied all the charges.

Suffolk Police said the 16-year prison sentence was a "reflection of the serious nature" of the offences.

Det Con Wendy Leah said: "The victims involved in this case have been extremely brave in coming forward and reliving these events in order to achieve justice.

"I hope the verdict passed today provides some level of closure and allows them to continue to recover from these traumatic experiences."

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