Gym coach Graham Leslie Oliver has been given a 12-year prison sentence for abusing young girls who he trained.
Fifty-eight-year-old Oliver was convicted at St Albans Crown Court of 13 counts of sexual assault against five girls. He pleaded guilty to abusing girls in Berkhamsted and Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire over a 38-year period, from 1977 to the present day.
In addition to the 12-year jail sentence, Oliver was given a further six years on licence and is subject to a Sexual Harm Prevention Order, meaning he is banned from ever working with children again.
Childhoods Ruined by a Serial Abuser
On sentencing Oliver, Judge Andrew Bright QC said, "You have taken the innocence and ruined the childhood of your victims."
"You have been a serial child abuser for 38 years and caused the most appalling damage to the lives of the girls concerned."
Jurors heard how Oliver used his position of trust to befriend and then abuse the girls – all of whom were under 16 at the time. They heard how Oliver not only abused the girls at his gym club during training sessions but also in his car and at his house – under the pretence that he was to show them gymnastics videos that would help their training.
The youngest girl who Oliver abused was just five years old.
Sports coaches have very close working relationships with the children they train, who are reliant on their coach to help them excel in their chosen sport. Serial abusers like Graham Oliver are very clever in manipulating relationships with parents, gaining their trust so that they can spend more time giving a child one-to-one tuition, providing an opportunity to groom each vulnerable child individually.
Further, due to the close relationship and students desire to perform well, coaches can have an emotional stranglehold over their pupils.
Devastating Effects of Abuse
Victim impact statements were read at court and revealed that one of the women had "carried a burden of guilt and shame since she was 14 years old," and had been unable to have a loving relationship or children. It is very upsetting to hear this, but sadly not uncommon and illustrates the devastating effects of abuse on individuals and the family.
Whilst the criminal trial may be over, the psychological trauma suffered by the survivors of Graham Oliver's sickening abuse may continue for a long time.
Pursuing an abuse claim through the civil courts can’t reverse such psychological damage, of course, but will always focus on the individual and it can enable survivors to access the treatment and support that they need.
The courts will carefully consider the needs of the survivor who is bringing the claim and their own specific circumstances will be taken into account when awarding any compensation.
In this case, a claim could be brought against Oliver directly depending on whether he has sufficient means. Alternatively, the Sports Club could also be found to be vicariously liable. This means that they could be found to be responsible for Oliver's actions on the basis that he was employed by the club or in a relationship akin to employment and used his position to abuse his victims.
Jessica Standley is a Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London, specialising in child abuse claims.
At Slater and Gordon, we have the most experienced team of child abuse lawyers in the UK and are currently representing over 800 survivors of abuse.
We have represented many survivors who have been abused by sports coaches who, like Graham Oliver, were in a position of trust, and we have experience in dealing with claims involving sports coaches and clubs.
For free and completely confidential legal advice, call us 24/7 on 0800 916 9046 or contact us online. Any communication with us will be dealt with in strict confidence.