4 Dec 2018

Sports coach accused of sexually abusing athlete

5:29 pm on 4 December 2018

A sports coach accused of sexually abusing one of his athletes is standing trial in the Auckland District Court.

Outside the Auckland District Court on Albert Street.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The man, who has name suppression, has pleaded not guilty to five charges of sexual violation, relating to alleged offences in Auckland and Christchurch.

He is accused of repeatedly forcing himself on a female athlete whom he had trained since she was a teenager.

Crown prosecutor Hannah Clark opened the Crown's case this afternoon and told the the jury the case was about an abuse of trust.

"This trial is about the defendant abusing that position and his place in the community to sexually offend against her."

Ms Clark said the young woman had been groomed as a teenager and their relationship soon progressed from professional to personal.

He took her out for lunches, bought her jewellery and texted her everyday, she said.

The woman told the jury she was initially pleased with the interest he took in her, as he was organising special training sessions and camps for her.

"It was great. He was getting me to where I wanted to go."

But their relationship became sexual one night in December 2016 after they had been out for dinner together, she said.

The woman said the pair were sitting in his car when the man - who was nearly 40 years older than her - tried to kiss her.

The woman said she asked him what he was doing, but he told her to just go with it.

He groped her chest and forced her to perform oral sex on him, she said.

Crown prosecutor Hannah Clark said this happened on a number of occasions; on trips away from home and even abroad.

She said the woman finally broke down during one of these trips and told another coach, who contacted the police.

In her opening address, the prosecutor said the jury may wonder why she didn't tell someone sooner.

She said the woman had a lot of respect for her coach, and knew much of her sporting success depended on their relationship.

"Her success depended on him and he knew he could take advantage of that. He was right because for some time it was easier for her to go along with what he wanted than to kick up a fuss and compromise her career."

Defence lawyer Graeme Newell said his client didn't dispute that the sexual activity had occurred but said it was consensual.

Mr Newell said the woman appeared to enjoy the attention and appreciate any advantages it may have given her.

"The short point is whatever you make of their ages, as a matter of fact the defence position is this sexual activity involved two consenting adults."

The trial before Judge Nicola Mathers and a jury is set down for four days.