Former Olympic coach gets 17 years for sex attacks

Swimming scandal: Top trainer who led British athletes to medal success is found guilty of two rapes and series of assaults
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The Independent Online
A former British Olympic swimming coach, Paul Hickson, was yesterday jailed for 17 years for sex attacks on teenagers in his elite squads.

Hickson, 48, Britain's chief coach at the Seoul games, was convicted of 15 out of 17 charges at Cardiff Crown Court.

He was found guilty of raping two teenage swimmers and indecently assaulting others. He was cleared on two charges of indecent assault.

Hickson had denied abusing teenagers over a 15-year period when he ran training clubs at Norwich and University College, Swansea, between 1976 and 1991.

At the time of his arrest in September 1992, Hickson was chief swimming coach at Millfield public school in Somerset.

Thirteen complainants, who at the time were aged 13 to 20, came forward to give evidence claiming that Hickson indecently assaulted them after swimming sessions or while carrying out fitness tests.

Hickson, who has an eight-year-old daughter, denied anything improper took place and told the jury that the women "fantasised" about him.

Hickson was sentenced to 12 years' jail for both rapes and other serious sexual offences, to run concurrently.

Judge John Prosser ordered him to serve an additional five years for the indecent assaults.

"It is a terrible shame to see a man of your great ability in the dock at all," Judge Prosser told Hickson. "You enjoyed, until the time of your arrest, national and international veneration in the swimming world. Your efforts brought out the best potential in some of our greatest swimmers and they looked up to you.

"But you had a great duty to them too, in particular the girls you committed these offences against. Their parents entrusted them to you and they also looked up to you. I regret to say you have thwarted their efforts and blighted the careers of some of them."

Judge Prosser said Hickson had ruined the lives of young girls and one of his rape victims had become "a pathetic creature" because of his attentions.

Hickson's second rape victim, Judge Prosser said, was so affected that "she could hardly bear to allow herself to confide and trust anyone".

He added: "All I can say about many of the offences is that they were beastly." Some of the girls had had to bear the consequences of Hickson's abuse with pain, anguish and sorrow going back nearly 20 years.

Anthony Evans QC, for the defence, told Judge Prosser that Hickson's wife, Kathleen, intended to stand by him. He said the ex-coach would never again be in a position where he would be able to abuse young swimmers.

"The fall of someone such as this is a harder fall than for most. His fall is great as is the humiliation," said Mr Evans.

Outside court, one mother whose daughter was indecently assaulted at Swansea University said: "It was terrible what he put the girls through. He was a very powerful figure in the swimming world and he just completely abused the trust people put in him. He has got the sentence he deserves."

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