‘Despicable’ Harpenden rugby coach jailed for ‘sexting’ young girls

Harpenden rugby coach Gavin Lendon was jailed for 12 months today after admitting to grooming two te

Harpenden rugby coach Gavin Lendon was jailed for 12 months today after admitting to grooming two teenage girls. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Archant

A Harpenden rugby coach who “abused his position of trust” has today been sentenced to 12 months in prison after admitting to ‘sexting’ two young girls and grooming them online.

Gavin Lendon, 52, of Lords Meadow in Redbourn, had admitted two counts of inciting a child into sexual activity between November 2017 and February 2018 when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court on Thursday, May 23.

Earlier today he was jailed for 12 months, given a sexual harm prevention order and a notification requirement for 10 years.

The court heard that Lendon was a coach at Harpenden Rugby Club and had used his position to groom two young girls who attended the club.

One of the girls was subjected to sexualised chat for a significant length of time.

He would speak to his victims - teenagers at the time of the offences - using WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and word games chat, using sexually explicit language and would try to persuade them to send him sexual images and engage in sexual activity with one another.

He was arrested when the father of one of the victims found worrying conversations on his daughter's Facebook Messenger.

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When Lendon was arrested, he told officers: "I know what this is about, it's about one of the girls at rugby…

"I said I loved her, her friend saw it and thought grooming."

He claimed there was no sexual motivation and that he felt 'genuine concern' and was trying to help.

When presented with the chat conversations he agreed it was inappropriate and went against his safeguarding training as a sports coach.

In one heavily sexual online chat group he set up with the two girls, Lendon was referred to as 'God'. He sent the girls explicit images of women engaged in sex acts and asked them to send him photos.

On one occasion he collected one of his victims from school and took her to the Holiday Inn for something to eat.

Another time they had lunch at a Toby Carvery, and he would often buy her alcohol at the rugby club.

Det Con Georgie Fenge said: "The victims in this case, two young girls, were exposed to disturbing sexually explicit messages by a man they should have been able to trust.

"Lendon abused his position of trust as a local rugby coach and inflicted the young teenagers to a stream of appalling sexualised messages. I am pleased to see this despicable man sent to prison and given a sexual harm prevention order for 10 years and a notification requirement for the next 10 years."

Harpenden RFC chairman Darren Francey said: "As soon as we became aware of this investigation the individual in question was suspended from the club.

"We worked with the Rugby Football Union and the police to ensure that safeguarding measures were in place and the individual's membership has since been revoked. Safeguarding the young players at our club is paramount and will remain so."

A spokesman for the NSPCC added: "Lendon groomed two girls with sickening sexually abusive messages when they should have been allowed to simply enjoy their time playing rugby.

"This sort of abuse can have a lasting impact on young lives and the quick actions of the father helped in part to put a predator behind bars where he cannot harm other children.

"The NSPCC also wants to see older children better protected from being abused by adults in a position of trust. Our Close the Loophole campaign calls on government to extend these laws to make it illegal for sports coaches and other youth workers to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds in their care, just like teachers and social workers."

The Constabulary's Child Online Safeguarding Team (COST) carry out significant enquiries and officers provide on-going support to victims. If you would like to contact the investigating officer in this case, email at georgina.fenge@herts.pnn.police.uk or call the non-emergency number 101.

You can find advice for children and young people about going online safely is available on Hertfordshire Constabulary's website.

Advice for parents and carers also be found here.