Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Wednesday, 5 August 2009 17:26 UK

Gymnastics coach in abuse claims

Edinburgh Sheriff Court
The case is being heard at Edinburgh Sheriff Court

A Scottish gymnastics coach has gone on trial over allegations that he abused 14 girls and one boy during a 22-year period.

Mitchell Dolphin, 51, who coached gymnastics at Lasswade High School and the Lo-Gy Centre in Midlothian, has pled not guilty to the charges.

Mr Dolphin faces 22 separate charges including one of sexual assault.

The trial, at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, is expected to last for at least two weeks.

Among the charges are 18 counts of lewd and libidinous practices and behaviour and one charge of breach of the peace.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between April 1986 to February 2008 at Lasswade High School, the Lo-Gy Centre, Mr Dolphin's then home in Polton Road and in his car and a caravan at Seton Sands in East Lothian.

The first day of the trial heard from three women, now in their thirties, who described Mr Dolphin as a "strict, ambitious coach" with a motto in the gym of "No pain, no gain".

Two of the women described how as 11-year old pupils, they felt embarrassed when he pushed their legs apart in exercises while they were wearing leotards.


One of the women said she had felt exposed but that the instructor had stopped when she complained.

She also said that when she had been doing bar exercises at the age of seven, Mr Dolphin had kissed her on the lips, which she said she found disgusting.

She said that the atmosphere in the gym had been light and fun and that when he had leant forward to kiss her, she had stuck out her tongue. "It was just a reflex action," she said.

A third woman described to the court how on one occasion when she was aged about 12 or 13, she was doing warming up exercises for box splits, where the legs have to go out 180 degrees.

She said Mr Dolphin had placed his hands on her "bum cheeks" to check the tension of the muscles.

She said another coach at the gym did not adopt the same procedure, but admitted that she was not the only one that Mr Dolphin checked in this way.

Asked if she had said anything about the incident, the woman replied: "No, I assumed it was a normal part of the warm-up".

The trial continues.

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