Paedophile rugby referee allowed to continue by RFU
A convicted paedophile who broke a court order by refereeing an under 14s rugby match is being allowed by the sport’s national governing body to continue officiating at adult fixtures, it has emerged.
Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard that Rhys Jack Gee took charge of adult matches despite being the subject of a Sexual Harm Prevention Order – and that was what brought him on to the pitch to officiate the junior match in Gloucestershire in March this year.
He was 13 months in to the order, which was imposed after he admitted making and distributing indecent images of children and possessing extreme pornography, when he refereed the match the court heard on Tuesday.
Jo Wallis, prosecuting said: “He is a registered sex offender and the order was imposed on February 11, 2016 for making and distributing indecent images of children and possession of extreme pornography.
“Because of that he must not have contact with children under 14.
“His sexual offender manager became aware he was a referee and was officiating in adult matches in the local area.
“It was agreed he could referee matches without disclosing it to the RFU, and this was reviewed by a PC Scott.
“Contact was made with the RFU safeguarding officer who said he had refereed an under 14s match in March this year.
“He admitted this and was charged. He pleaded guilty at the first hearing.”
Gee, 19, of Kingsholm, Gloucester admitted breaching the order by refereeing the match which brought him in to contact with children 14 and under.
Tim Burrows, defending, said: “He is 19-years-old and a qualified rugby referee – he is young and that is what the RFU is trying to encourage.
“He found himself between a rock and a hard place. It was felt practical to let as few people know as possible.
“He was due to referee an adult game but then was offered a switch to a junior match. He declined, with the excuse that it was an old team of his. Then he was switched to another junior match and he found himself in almost an impossible situation.
“He went to the game changed in to his kit and stayed in public spaces at all times.
“There was minimal contact but it was an under 14s match and he accepts he should not have done it. He immediately admitted it.
“The RFU said he can continue as a referee but the Gloucestershire RFU has cancelled his refereeing credentials.
“A lot of work has gone in to Mr Gee, he has accommodation and employment. He struggles with his background a bit.”
District Judge Joti Bopa-Rai said she took in to account that he had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, and that the order was 13 months old before he breached it rather than a matter of weeks or a few months.
“You were refereeing the game in the open and you said you made sure you did not go near children privately,” she said. “It was on a field, other people were there, the risk was limited because any wrongdoing would have been noticed.
“But there was a risk and that’s what I have to sentence you for. It was six months ago and I know the police are keeping an eye on you.
“There is the possibility of a custodial sentence but I am not going to take it in to that sphere. You are already being punished in that you cannot practice in something you have worked hard for.
“I appreciate this will get media coverage – that will not make life any easier for you.”
She imposed a 24 month referral order with a 30 day one-to-one rehabilitation activity. He was fined £50, and ordered to pay £85 towards prosecution costs and an £85 victim surcharge.