Glasgow & West Scotland

Sex with coach 'should have been illegal'

Lara Gorman Image copyright Gorman family
Image caption Lara Gorman was a promising triathlon athlete

A woman who had a sexual relationship with her coach when she was 16 has backed a campaign to criminalise sex between sports coaches and under 18s.

Lara Gorman, who is now 25, said her relationship with her coach John Dargie should have been considered illegal.

The NSPCC wants coaches to fall under the law, which prohibits teachers, social workers and doctors from having sex with under 18s in their care.

Mr Dargie backed a law change and said he had not intended to cause harm.

Ms Gorman, from Stirlingshire, said she suffered mental health problems after the relationship ended when she was 18. Her coach was 33 when the relationship began.

"I lost a coach and a relationship," she said.

"It was hard, plus he was in a position of trust and he abused that, and he'd been training me since I was 13 years old, which makes it worse.

"I'm fine now and that's why I've decided to step out and say something, because I'm in a better place now."

Image caption Ms Gorman suffered mental health problems after the relationship ended

A statement from the former Glasgow Triathlon head coach said he had been suffering with diagnosed mental health problems at the time.

"What happened in the past will always be with me and at no time was my intention to cause any grief or harm to anyone," Mr Dargie said.

"I firmly believe that had I have been of sound mental health at the time our relationship would never have come about.

"I also know that had the law been different at the time, the possibility of starting our relationship would not have entered my mind, and certainly would not have occurred."

He added: "I welcome all systems and policies that exist to protect individuals and I welcome and support the NSPCC's proposed changes to the law."

'Law loophole'

Joanna Barrett, of the children's charity NSPCC, said Ms Gorman's case highlighted a "loophole in the law".

She said: "We want youth workers and sport coaches to be held to the same standard as social workers, teachers and doctors - so that a relationship with an under 18 in their care is considered an offence.

"We want anyone undertaking regulated work, where they are required to get a disclosure check, to be considered to be in a position of trust."

Ms Gorman's mother, Wendy, said: "It's too late for Lara, but it shouldn't happen again.

"Coaches should act with integrity.

"They are significant people in the life of the young people they coach - and perhaps more so than teachers and social workers."

Image copyright Gorman family

Mr Dargie is a Triathlon Scotland registered triathlon coach and was subject to a disciplinary hearing in 2010.

The organisation said that when the allegation was raised, an independent disciplinary panel carried out an investigation, resulting in him receiving a two-year suspension.

A spokeswoman said: "Following the investigation and outcome, Triathlon Scotland carried out a review of the disciplinary policy, and the outcome of the review confirmed that the policy was robust.

"Triathlon Scotland takes child protection concerns extremely seriously and continues to review policies and procedures to protect children. If any club welfare officer, member or individual has any concerns whatsoever, they can report concerns to Triathlon Scotland, in confidence, at any time.

"Triathlon Scotland welcomes a review to the laws regarding child protection and will support any changes that help to protect children and vulnerable adults in sport."

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