Ipswich endurance running coach Steve Benson has received a 16-year jail term for rapes and sex assaults on teenage girls
Steve Benson, one of the leading distance-running coaches on the British athletics scene in recent years, has been jailed for 16 years after being found guilty of 19 sex assaults, including nine rapes, on three girls aged 15-18.
The 50-year-old, who was also found not guilty of two rape accusations, had denied all charges and claimed he had consensual relationships with two of the athletes he trained after they had turned 16.
The Ipswich Star reported that Judge Goodin told Benson: “Over the years you ruthlessly and repeatedly betrayed the trust of parents and daughters, callously and adroitly exploiting the relationship between you and parents and between you and the child and between the child and parents.”
Such was his success in cross-country circles, the Ipswich Harriers man was part of the GB management set up at the World Cross and also held prominent positions in England teams, plus commercial young athlete summer training camps.
Benson was an official team coach, for example, with UK Athletics at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships on home soil in Edinburgh in 2008, although he has been banned from coaching since this case came to light.
Among his numerous coaching successes was Tom Sharland, who was leading European in the junior men’s race at the 2002 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Dublin. He also coached Kieran Clements to the 2011 English Schools cross country title, although the youngster was working with a new coach in the run-up to his bronze medal-winning performance at the Euro Cross in December last year.
Sporting a ponytail and ear-rings for many years, Benson was a distinctive character and he was also a teacher at Copleston High School, although his offences occurred in his out-of-school athletics life.
The court heard how Benson groomed the teenagers for his “own benefit and sexual gratification” and that he managed to enter the girls’ lives to the extent of spending time at their homes and on holidays.
Det Con Wendy Leah told the Ipswich Star: “The sentencing is a reflection of the serious nature of these offences, in which three young females were subjected to sustained sexual abuse over a long period.
“Stephen Benson was in a privileged position of trust when he committed these offences, and had gained the friendship and trust of his victims and their families, before he abused them in this manner.
“He was carrying out these offences over a period of 20 years, and at separate times, he became a significant part of each of the young victim’s lives.
“The victims involved in this case have been extremely brave in coming forward and re-living these events in order to achieve justice. I hope the verdict passed today provides some level of closure and allows them to continue to recover from these traumatic experiences.”