Northern Ireland

Youth football coach jailed for sexually grooming child

Antrim courthouse

A youth football coach who admitted grooming a 13-year-old girl he later had sex with has been jailed for two years.

John Workman, 34, of Craigyhill in Larne, was also ordered to spend a further two years on licence.

Antrim Crown Court heard that the father-of-four had given his victim a lifelong sexually-transmitted infection (STI).

The judge said the infection will be "a reminder of this appalling episode".

With a jury sworn in and ready to hear the trial in January, Workman was re-arraigned and pleaded guilty to one charge of meeting a child following sexual grooming and three of sexual activity involving penetration with a child.

The charges related to incidents between 1 March and 16 October 2014.

A prosecution lawyer told the court that the victim "saw him as a father figure", a view which Workman "took advantage of".

"The relationship ended, we say, only when the defendant told the injured party that their activities had come to the notice of outside parties including certain paramilitaries," the lawyer added.

'Grooming and manipulation'

Police became involved when, worried about what might happen to Workman as a result of paramilitary attention, the victim confided in a teacher who in turn told the authorities.

In his police interview, Workman claimed there had been an element of consent.

But the judge told the court that given the victim's age, any consent she had "could not have been valid" and that "whatever consent was there was given through grooming and manipulation".

The judge said Workman had "provoked the destruction of evidence" when he discovered paramilitaries had found out what he had been doing.

Workman was ordered to sign the sex offenders' register for the rest of his life.

The judge also imposed a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO), which prohibits him from having access to children or taking a job without prior approval from his designated risk manager.

Outside the court, friends and relatives of the victim said they were "just relieved that it's all over".

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