Manchester FA coach jailed for illicit sexual affair with girl, 15, who he bombarded with love letters and gifts

By David Watkinson

The career of a FA football coach lay in tatters this morning after he was jailed over an illicit affair with a 15-year-old girl he was tutoring.

Stuart Sharples, 29, bombarded his teenage mistress with love letters and gifts after helping her play football.

He carried on his fling with the youngster even though he was warned off by the girl’s parents who were worried that he was in contact with her outside of football training.

He claimed that he was genuinely trying to help the youngster with her studies but he was eventually found out after love letters he had sent were discovered at her home.

Sharples, an FA qualified football coach, of Middleton, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual activity with a child and was jailed for 32 months at Minshull Street Crown Court.

He will have to sign the Sex Offender’s Register for life.

Sharples was a girls’ football coach at the Hopwood Hall College in Middleton where Manchester United footballer Paul Scholes opened the Sports Arena.

He first met the 15-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in either May or June of last year.

They struck up a friendship and begun to exchange text messages outside of the football lessons.

As well as her football coaching, he also offered to help her with her studies. The girl’s parents objected to this and confronted Sharples, who claimed he was genuinely offering his help with no ulterior motive.

However, the pair remained in contact and eventually embarked on a sexual relationship in early October 2013.

But a few weeks later, the girl’s parents discovered a number of love letters sent by Sharples that showed clearly the pair were in a sexual relationship and Greater Manchester Police were called.

Sharples was then arrested and admitted during interview he had been in a sexual relationship with the young girl, and that he knew she was under the age of consent and what he was doing was wrong.

Detective Constable April Hopwood of Greater Manchester Police said: “In the strictest sense, this was a consensual sexual relationship.

“But we need to be absolutely clear that, by law, anyone under the age of 16 cannot give their consent to sexual relations.”

Det Con Hopwood said that Sharples had admitted receiving training about safeguarding issues from his employers while under police question, so he was aware of the law but chose to break it.

She said: “Sharples had a position of responsibility and trust as the girls’ football coach and sadly he abused the trust that was placed upon him.

”As a man nearly twice the age of this girl, he should have put a stop to any relationship before it escalated and because of his training, he was well aware of his duty to protect this girl but it would appear he instigated much of relationship, pursuing her and sending her love letters and gifts.

Det Con Hopwood said the ruling should make it clear that this kind of illicit behavior will not go unpunished.

“I hope this case sends out a warning to anyone else who holds a position of such trust and is tempted to embark on a sexual relationship with someone who is not old enough to give their consent,” she said.

“Whatever your personal feelings may be, you are breaking the law and you will be placed on the Sex Offender’s Register.

”So, I would advise such people to think twice, put the needs and welfare of these young people who are attracted to older men and women first and do the right thing otherwise you will have to live with the consequences for the rest of your life.”

Story via Cavendish Press.

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