May 2008

Olympic diver jailed for attacks

A former Olympic diver has been jailed for nine years after admitting a string of indecent assault charges against three girls as young as six.

Brian Phelps, famous for winning bronze at the 1960 Olympics in Rome when he was 16 years old, pleaded guilty to a string of offences from 1976 to 1987.

Denials of rape and attempted rape were accepted by Bournemouth Crown Court.

When the allegations surfaced in 2003, Phelps, 64, worked as a trampoline and swimming coach in Poole, Dorset.

The 63-year-old used to live in Sunderland with Wearside-born wife Monica Rutherford – an international gymnast – at Cleveland Road, High Barnes.

He also lived at The Elms, Ashbrooke, and later moved to High Grange Estate, Belmont, Durham City.

While living in Sunderland in 1966, Phelps was cleared by Blaydon magistrates of flashing at a 14-year-old girl at Dunston swimming baths

It was reported that as he left the court, Phelps was attacked by the mother of an 11-year-old girl who gave evidence against him.

Phelps, who won gold in the 1962 and 1966 Commonwealth Games, was also put on the Sex Offenders Register for life.

Judge Samuel Wiggs told him he must serve a minimum of six years before he is considered for release.

The case against the former sportsman began after an initial complaint stemming from just one victim in 2003 led to other victims coming forward following extensive press coverage.

The case against the former sportsman began after an initial complaint stemming from just one victim in 2003 led to other victims coming forward following extensive press coverage.

But BBC South has discovered that there were earlier allegations of child abuse against Phelps in 1999, which Poole social services investigated.

At the time he was employed by Poole Borough Council – but it has since said there was insufficient evidence to take further action.

He was police checked and cleared to continue working – until the first of his victims came forward in 2003.

By then he was employed by British Gymnastics. The organisation and Poole social services carried out separate investigations.

As a result of the allegation, Phelps was suspended in January 2004 and later resigned – but it was another three years before the victim agreed to bring charges in 2007.

Press coverage

In April 2008, Phelps admitted 11 counts of indecent assault and eight charges of indecency against one girl, when she was aged between six and 15, at Bournemouth Crown Court.

He also pleaded guilty to 10 charges of indecent assault and eight charges of indecency against a second girl when she was aged between six and 14.

And he admitted four charges of indecent assault and one of indecency against a third girl when she was aged between nine and 12.

In a statement, Poole Borough Council said of the 1999 allegations, that they “could not be substantiated and provided insufficient evidence to take further action.

“When re-employed in 2002, Phelps was routinely required to complete an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check.

“This provided clearance for his employment as a casual instructor.

“Information relating to allegations of child abuse prior to Phelps’ employment by Borough of Poole was raised in September 2003.

“A joint child protection inquiry was launched by Borough of Poole and Dorset Police.”

After Phelps resigned, a disciplinary hearing by British Gymnastics barred Phelps from membership of the organisation and banned him from coaching.

The council added: “British Gymnastics, with Borough of Poole’s support, also referred Phelps to the POCA (Protection of Children Act) List which prevented him from obtaining work with children in any capacity.”