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Basketball coach engaged in sexual activity with girl, 14, in school cafe

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A basketball coach has been found guilty of engaging in sexual activity with an underage girl in a school cafe.

Aidan McDowell was 18 when he had sexual relations with a 14-year-old victim.

He coached young basketball players, however the young girl was not one of his students.

The duo embarked on an illegal relationship, despite knowing it was wrong, a court has heard.

They swapped naked videos of each other and engaged in sexual activity – some of which was caught on CCTV at a school.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the offending came to light when the girl's friends expressed concerns about her to staff at their school.

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When staff quizzed the victim, she said she had been involved with McDowell for a few months after contacting him on Instagram.

Her school contacted her parents and when they spoke to her she was tearful and said she loved him, reports Chronicle Live.

Andrew Espley, prosecuting, said: "Her father was shocked and upset.

"He went through her phone and was astonished how many texts there had been."

Police were informed and seized CCTV from a school cafe which showed McDowell putting his hand between the girl's legs under a table and removing it when someone came in before putting it back when the person left.

It also showed her touching him between the legs.

The girl was interviewed by police and told them the pair had exchanged sexual videos on Snapchat but said they classed it as a relationship and that it "felt right" and "was very natural" even though she knew it was wrong because of their ages.

When McDowell was arrested, he admitted there had been sexual activity but said he had spoken to her initially out of "pure niceness" and was not trying to groom her.

He said they both had "genuine feelings for each other" but decided it would not work because of the age gap.

McDowell added that he had not put the girl under any pressure to do anything sexual.

Referring to a victim impact statement, Mr Espley said: "She's suffering from trust issues because of the way she was abused.

"She says she wants her innocence back, which is going to be very difficult given what happened."

McDowell, now 20, of Lynemouth Way, Great Park, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to causing a child to engage in sexual activity, sexual activity with a child, causing a child to watch sexual activity and engaging in sexual communication with a child.

He was sentenced to 12 months in a young offenders institution, suspended for two years with an eight month curfew between 7pm and 7am.

He must also do a sex offender treatment programme, has to sign the sex offenders register for ten years, will be subject to a sexual harm prevention order for ten years and was given a restraining order banning him from contacting or going near the victim.

Judge Tim Gittins said it was to the girl's friends "enormous credit" that they had raised concerns with school staff.

The judge added: "What came to light was a relationship between you and her that developed into a sexual relationship at your instigation, which you and her had hidden from adults because you both knew it was wrong and you both knew what the consequences would be.

"While this was not grooming in the classic sense from the outset, you very swiftly decided on having more than a platonic friendship with her.

"You are not an unintelligent young man, you were doing a foundation course, intent on university education.

"You were of previous good character and you have expressed a genuine understanding and remorse for the damage you have caused."

Andrew Walker, defending, said: "He has completely removed himself from that sporting environment for the past year.

"He accepts it was his responsibility and his fault.

"The force of the criminal proceedings have been heavily felt on this still relatively young man.

"The defendant found her to be mature for her age and he lacked maturity for his age. It began as a friendship."

Mr Walker said McDowell was a basketball player "who occasionally coached other teenagers" and had been asked to help out when a previous coach left, adding: "He was not operating in an employed capacity."

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