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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 19:36 GMT
Tennis coach jailed for sex abuse
Claire Lyte
The convicted tennis coach was banned from working with children
A female tennis coach has been jailed for two years and nine months for sexually abusing a schoolgirl.

Claire Lyte, 29, was criticised by the judge at Liverpool Crown Court for telling lies to avoid conviction.

Lyte, of Solihull, West Midlands, had denied four counts of sexual activity with a child.

During the two week trial the court heard the 13-year-old Merseyside girl's mother caught her daughter and the coach in bed together.

Lyte was ordered to sign the Sex Offenders Register and banned from working with children.

Judge Nigel Gilmour said: "In attempting to escape conviction you alleged that three generations of the victim's family were all part of a wicked conspiracy to get you convicted of crimes you hadn't committed.

"There wasn't and never has been such a conspiracy by the family.

"The jury accepted the victim and her family were substantial witnesses of truth and could be relied upon."

It was revealed in court that days before the girl's mother found the pair in bed together, Lyte had been given an official warning by her bosses at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA).

You welcomed her attention and encouraged it and then manipulated what had become her infatuation with you
Judge Nigel Gilmour

She was later given another warning over her conduct with young players she coached, which the judge said was an aggravating factor in her case.

After Lyte was found guilty, Judge Gilmour told the jury he had offered the coach the chance to change her pleas at the start of the trial because of "overwhelming evidence" against her.

Lyte, named as Young Coach of the Year in 2001, began a relationship with the girl after they met at a national tennis academy at Loughborough University.

She slept in the same room as her victim at tennis tournaments.

Confidence 'betrayed'

The pair also sent each other intimate text messages, which were used as evidence in court.

Judge Gilmour added: "The girl's family expected you to look after her and she was entrusted in your care.

"You corrupted that girl and advanced her experiences of sexual matters by some years."

"You welcomed her attention and encouraged it and then manipulated what had become her infatuation with you and did that for your own selfish sexual ends."

Detective Inspector Dave Grisenthwaite, of Merseyside Police, said: "The case is particularly disturbing as Ms Lyte hid behind her role as a tennis coach, which placed her in a position of trust with young people.

"She betrayed the confidence placed in her by LTA members and by an aspiring player and her family."

Her lawyer, Margaret Coal has said she will appeal.

"Ms Lyte is devastated with the guilty verdict. She has maintained her innocence throughout these proceedings and continues to do so.

"I can confirm we are going to lodge an appeal against her conviction."

Claire Lyte found guilty of sexual abuse

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02 Oct 07 |  Merseyside

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