A former professional tennis player turned coach has been jailed for six years after admitting having sexual activity with a child.
Daniel Sanders, 42, formerly of Wrexham, pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual activity with an underage girl and one of causing her to engage in oral sex.
Appearing at Mold Crown Court for sentencing yesterday, Sanders, who played his last professional game in 1996, showed no emotion as Judge Rhys Rowlands told him his behaviour had “devastated” the teenage victim and her family.
Simon Rogers, prosecuting, said Sanders had coached the girl for several years and described her as an “exceptional tennis player”.
Mr Rogers said the relationship had become sexual in the summer of 2016 after Sanders had asked the girl a number of personal questions before instigating sexual touching in his office.
The court heard the pair had sexual intercourse on the desk in his office and on the floor after Sanders had put a mat down.
Father-of-three Sanders had warned the girl not to tell anyone about the relationship because he would “lose everything” and told her he would kill himself if she did so.
Mr Rogers described how Sanders and the girl would travel to tournaments together and, despite her father accompanying them, on one occasion the pair had sexual intercourse in a hotel room.
Sanders and the girl would text each other every day and he asked her to send him sexual pictures of herself.
The offences only came to light last December when a friend of the girl saw text messages and Snapchat messages of a sexual nature on her phone and confronted her.
Sanders, who now lives in Merriott, Somerset, had sent her sexual explicate pictures of himself and the girl said she would usually delete these but on this occasion had forgotten.
The court heard Sanders was arrested in January this year and gave ‘no comment’ responses in interview.
A personal statement from the girl and her family said the experience had been “devastating for her parents, grandparents and siblings.”
John Hedgecoe, defending, said his client, who had no previous convictions, had shown remorse for what he had done to the victim and her family – and his own family.
Mr Hedgecoe said: “He (Sanders) has lost his marriage, lost touch with his children who are dear to him, lost his career and lost his reputation.
“He will have to start at the bottom, perhaps on the floor of a shop, and build a new career so he can care for his young children.”
Sentencing Sanders, Judge Rowlands, said: “This case will provoke strong feelings of anger among the tennis community.
“It is an appallingly bad breach of trust on your part. You were trusted to be alone together and you were treated as a friend of the family.
“You were aware of her age but that didn’t stop you and you were well aware of the risk.
“You told the child you would commit suicide if she told anyone which put additional pressure on her.
“It was just lust – plain and simple – and it got the better of you.”
As well as serving six years in prison, Sanders will have to sign the sex offenders’ register for life and be prevented from working with vulnerable adults and children.
Speaking after the sentencing, DS Jane Bowyer Jones, of North Wales Police, said: “Sanders criminally abused his position of trust and has rightly been sentenced to six years in prison.
“North Wales Police will vigorously pursue those who commit such offences and put them before the courts.”
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