Sex abuse trial hears gymnastics coach kept job despite complaints
SCOTLAND'S governing body for gymnastics received previous complaints about a coach – who is this week on trial for child abuse – behaving inappropriately with students, it was alleged yesterday.
Former Scottish Gymnastics coach Mitch Dolphin, 51, is on trial at Edinburgh Sheriff Court charged with breach of the peace, three charges of sexual assault and 18 of lewd and libidinous practices and behaviour.
The alleged offences, involving one boy and 14 girls, are said to have taken place over 22 years from April 1986 to February 2008. He was arrested in April, and denies the charges.
It is alleged the offences took place in the Lo-Gy Centre in Loanhead, at Lasswade High School, at Dolphin's former home, and in his car and a caravan at Seton Sands.
Yesterday at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Lorna Whyte, 51, head of ethics and welfare at the Scottish Gymnastics Association since 1999, said Scottish Gymnastics had received two previous complaints about Dolphin's behaviour – but allowed him to carry on in his job.
She said they had been unable to act further because of a lack of information in the original allegations.
It was not until December 2007 and January 2008, when two more students warned her about his alleged inappropriate behaviour, that she reported Dolphin to the authorities.
Mrs Whyte said she had received complaints from people in 2003 and 2006 about Dolphin, but had been unable to follow them up. And, she said, Scottish Gymnastics might even have had warnings about him as early as the mid-90s.
Giving evidence at Dolphin's trial yesterday, Mrs Whyte said she called in officers after following up an e-mail from one of Dolphin's pupils in December 2007. As a result of that meeting, Mrs Whyte, who developed Scottish Gymnastics' child protection policy, met another pupil, who also raised concerns about Dolphin.
Mrs Whyte said: "I wrote up a report about meeting with her and took it to my boss. I then contacted the police and asked them for a meeting about a potential child protection scenario.
"I spoke to her and asked if I could pass on her details to the police."
Fiscal-depute Melanie Ward asked Mrs Whyte whether there had been any times in the past when complaints had been raised about Dolphin and she said she had received two, in October 2003 and June 2006.
Mrs Whyte said: "Both were in relation to inappropriate practices with regard to the coach at the club at the time – Mr Dolphin.
"The complaint in 2003 came to me, it was an anonymous complaint. The second complaint was passed on by Mr Dolphin to Scottish Gymnastics."
Mrs Whyte said that after she received the complaint in 2003 she replied to the e-mail. explaining Scottish Gymnastics' policies and asking for more details.
She said that after this she received no more information and no further action was taken about the claims.
Mrs Whyte said that three years later, Dolphin himself passed on a complaint – claiming another coach had made it out of "jealousy". That claim was treated in the same way as the first.
She said: "We responded to the e-mail address given and explained the situation that in order for us to investigate the matter fully we had to have details of the exact claims.
"I gave a period of two weeks and the person never got back to me, so no further action was taken."
Mrs Whyte added that police had given her "a heads up" that there had been a complaint to Scottish Gymnastics about Dolphin "about 12 years ago", but she said this had been before her time as head of ethics and welfare.
She said she had no knowledge of the complaint and had found no file relating to it.
At an earlier hearing, on 5 August, Edinburgh Sheriff Court was told how Dolphin would touch youngsters as they were warming up.
Giving evidence at his trial, a former student claimed Dolphin would cuddle a "protege" aged as young as 12 and sit her on his knee, playing with her hair, while he spoke to other gymnasts.
Two other girls who were also trained by Dolphin said he kissed one of them on the lips when she was between seven and nine years old and both claimed he used stretching techniques which left them "exposed".
The trial continues.
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