A ‘sinister’ athletics coach who ‘manipulated, abused and violated’ schoolgirls during the 1970s and 1980s in Andover has today (Monday 12 August) been jailed for seven and a half years.
Philip Banning, 68, of Meadowlands Close, Penhow, Wales, pleaded guilty today to 18 counts of indecent assault relating to four girls who were under the age of 16 at the time of the offences, including one girl who was under the age of 13.
His guilty pleas, which were entered on the first day of his trial, follow a lengthy investigation carried out by the Operation Marmion team, who specialise in investigating non-recent child sex abuse.
Prosecutor Tim Moores told Winchester Crown Court that Banning had been an ‘Olympic hopeful’ in his younger years, running at an international level for Team GB before returning to Andover Athletics Club as a qualified coach where he met the four girls.
“It is in this context that he came into contact with the four complainants, and in due course began to sexually abuse them to a greater or lesser degree”, Mr Moores said.
“Under the guise of acting as coach and mentor, he was pursuing a regime of abuse against certain members of the club.”
The court heard that Banning would assault the girls during car rides home after training, as well as during sports massages. One of the girls was aged just 11 years-old when she was assaulted in Banning’s car, before he asked her, ‘is this something you’ve done before?’
Two of the girls were assaulted in a room under Banning’s stairs at his home address, during a party where the children were allowed to drink alcohol, the court heard.
One of the girls bumped into Banning in Andover town centre, before he led her to a school field and abused her.
Three of the survivors in this case, now adult women, defiantly hit back at their abuser when reading their victim personal statements to the court.
“You were my coach, and you were my teacher, and you held a position of trust,” one of the women told the defendant as he sat in the dock.
“You were meant to nurture a child’s development, you were trained to safeguard children, but instead you chose to slowly manipulate, violate and sexually abuse me. I was left abused, violated and confused, still too young to understand the significance of this. I did not have the understanding of how sinister and insidious your motives were.
“You took my childhood, my trust, my voice, my worth, and nearly my life.”
The woman told the court that Banning had also given her a Valentine’s card when she was just 12-years-old.
She continued: “You said to me that this was your way of showing me your special love. But this was like a septic wound that was never allowed to heal. Even if it did scab over briefly, it was picked open by my own self-hatred.”
Another survivor told the court that her first kiss as a child – which was ‘brutal and forceful’ – was with Banning, which left her feeling ‘shattered’.
Banning mouthed ‘sorry’ to the women in court as he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for the offences. He must also sign on the sex offenders register for life.
Sentencing Banning, Judge Keith Cutler CBE said: “You are responsible for what everyone agrees was a grave abuse of trust.
“What you were doing was grooming [the girls], abusing your position, and seeking them as your sexual relief, not caring really how that was to affect them, as clearly you can see it has.”
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Toby Elcock, said of the case: “After initially denying the offences, Banning has now taken responsibility for his horrific reign of abuse, which has spared the victims having to go through a difficult trial process.
“For these girls, this should have been an important time in their young lives. They were schoolchildren exploring their passion for sport, and this was ruined by Banning’s appalling sexual appetite.
“I hope they can now rest assured that justice has been served, and Banning will not be able to harm another child.”
We would encourage anyone who has been a victim of child sexual abuse to contact police on 101 where you can speak with our specialist detectives in confidence.