A FORMER Winchester athletics coach has been jailed for 15 years for indecently assaulting five girls nearly 40 years ago.

Richard John Hilary, of Northend Lane, Droxford, was today (FRI) convicted of 14 counts of indecent assault following a trial at Winchester Crown Court.

The court heard how the abuse happened when Hilary was a teacher at a secondary school in Farnborough and a running coach at Winchester Athletics Club between 1978 and 1984.

Hilary, now aged 67, kissed and sexually abused the girls – who were all aged under 16 at the time - on many separate occasions. He committed these offences on school premises, in his car, and at his home.

Det Con Sarah Fox, officer in the case, said: “Hilary used his position of authority as both a PE teacher and a sports coach to gain the trust of these girls – who are now women - and he abused that trust in the most awful way.

“He maintained that he hadn’t done anything wrong throughout our investigation and continued in this vein throughout the court process, which has been especially difficult for the victims."

He also spent 12 years as headteacher of Chamberlayne Park School in Southampton after the alleged offences took place and retired in 2006.

Judge Susan Evans QC jailed Hilary for 15 years. He was also ordered to sign on the sex offender’s register for life.

This police investigation was run by a specialist team which investigates non-recent sexual abuse of children.

The team is made up of specially-trained detectives, officers and investigators, who dedicate their time to these long and often complex investigations. They also work with partner agencies to offer additional support to people affected by this type of offending.

Senior investigating officer Detective Sergeant Gemma Hunter, said: “I am pleased with this excellent result, and hope that the victims who have suffered for decades can finally find closure knowing that their abuser has been brought to justice.

“Hilary, a man who was appointed in two separate positions of trust in different areas of the county, grossly abused his position, knowing full well the impact it would have on the girls.

Rob Welling, from the CPS, said: “Richard Hilary abused his position of trust as a teacher to indecently assault young girls he had responsibility for. Hilary was described by many of his victims as a popular and dynamic teacher, a fact he exploited as he groomed the girls into performing sexual acts for him.

“The CPS was able to use the teenage diaries of his victims which made clear Hilary’s crimes at the time they happened and provided compelling evidence to put before the jury.

“I commend the victims who reported Hilary and supported this prosecution.”

In a statement released during the trial, which can only be reported now, the athletics club said: "Winchester and District Athletics Club (WADAC) is aware of the ongoing trial of Richard Hilary from reports in the local press. The reported incidents are alleged to have taken place some time in the past. Richard Hilary is not a coach at the club and is no longer associated in any way with the activities of WADAC. The club wishes to reassure all club members and the general public that we have a strict welfare policy in place and that all coaches involved with WADAC are subject to DBS checks and hold up to date England Athletics coaching licences."