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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 15:16 GMT
Gymnastics coach jailed for abuse
The court heard that Mills could offend again
A top gymnastics coach has been jailed for seven years for sexually abusing three girls who had taken up the sport.

Joseph Mills, 40, carried out the attacks on girls attending the National Sports Centre at Largs, in Ayrshire.

Judge Lord Menzies told Mills that he was guilty of a "disgraceful abuse" of his position over a prolonged period.

Mills had admitted four indecency offences committed against three girls between 1992 and 2000. The victims were aged between eight and 14.

Lord Menzies told Mills at the High Court in Edinburgh: "Parents are entitled to expect that their young daughters will be safe when they go for gymnastics or other sports education.

The court can only speculate as to the psychological damage you may have caused to your victims
Lord Menzies
"Young girls themselves are entitled to expect they will be safe and certainly not that they will be abused by the instructors who are meant to be protecting them.

"The court can only speculate as to the psychological damage you may have caused to your victims."

He added that a psychological report on Mills showed there was a real risk that he would offend again.

"It is clear to me you require adequate monitoring and supervision on release from a custodial sentence and that you pose a real risk to young girls without such safeguards," said Lord Menzies.

The judge ordered that Mills should serve an extended sentence for a further four years after his jail term when he will be kept under supervision. Any breach could see him returned to prison.

'Scared to tell'

Mills was unmasked when his first victim came to suspect he was targeting one of the other girls and spoke to her on the telephone.

Advocate depute Frank Mulholland said: "They were scared to tell their parents face to face and eventually wrote letters to them. The parents were horrified and called in the police."

The defence counsel said that Mills had himself suffered abuse earlier in his life.

He had been assessed as requiring treatment to deal with his offending behaviour.

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