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Thursday, June 20, 2024
CrimeFormer cheerleading coach jailed for child sex offences

Former cheerleading coach jailed for child sex offences

A former cheerleading coach has been jailed after being found guilty of sexual offences against children.

Tom Walsh (37) of Shaw Lane, Prescot was sentenced at Bolton Crown Court yesterday, after he was convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse against three girls, as well as possession and distribution of child abuse images.

He was sentenced to 15 years in jail with a further 5 years on license. He also received a lifetime sexual harm prevention order and was registered as a sex offender for life.

Walsh was found guilty of 28 charges relating to sexual offences against children which took place between 2011 and 2020.

Walsh was a cheerleader and met two of his victims whilst he was coaching, whilst the third he groomed online.

The offences were committed in Manchester and Liverpool, although Walsh also communicated with a number of girls across the UK.

Covert officers

An investigation into his offending was launched after covert officers communicated with Walsh online. As enquiries progressed, Walsh’s sexual interest in children – young girls – became apparent.

Walsh was arrested in August 2020 on suspicion of possession and distribution of child abuse images.

The investigation subsequently uncovered numerous indecent images of children saved on Walsh’s device and messages between himself and a number of victims.

He used Snapchat to communicate with his victims and evidence of screen recording software was recovered which showed how the defendant had saved child abuse images and his conversations with victims.

A number of victims were identified, including the three girls who were victims of child sexual abuse.

Two further victims, who were teenagers at the time and came contact with Walsh through cheerleading, were identified during the investigation.

Manipulative, predatory and exploitative

Detective chief inspector Suzanne Keenaghan said: “This jail sentence would not have been possible without the courage and strength of the victims and the tireless efforts of the entire investigation team.

“This was an incredibly difficult investigation, but I am pleased the defendant will now finally answer for his despicable actions. Walsh was placed in a position of authority and he professed to be a father figure and friend to his victims, but he was their abuser.

“He was manipulative, predatory and exploitative and used typical grooming behaviour to befriend children who were going through difficult times and were vulnerable. He betrayed their trust and inflicted life-long trauma onto children for his own sexual gratification.

“For one victim, cheerleading was supposed to be a safe space but Walsh used it as his hunting ground. He has never shown remorse or recognition for what he has done.

“It’s entirely possible Walsh’s offending could have gone on unchecked and harmed more children were it not for the proactive work of the ROCU team who carried out a covert investigation and brought his despicable crimes to light.

“I also want to commend our own officer DC Ceri Martin who went above and beyond what was required of her to identify and meet with the victims and spent months earning their trust and supporting them to report what had happened to police. It is in large part thanks to her efforts that the victims finally have justice and I am so proud of her and the brilliant people like her that we have in this unit who are doing their utmost to protect children.

“I hope this case also reminds parents and young people of the dangers. Abusers can be people you know and trust and they can take advantage of that trust. I would therefore urge parents and teachers to speak to children and young people about the signs of abuse and spread awareness of how to stay safe online.

“Sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim and no one should feel the need to suffer in silence. It is never too late to tell someone and seek help.”

You can also report information and crimes on the GMP website (www.gmp.police.uk) using the ‘report’ tool. Alternatively, you can report information anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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