AN international karate champion and trusted martial arts teacher from York has been jailed for five years for grooming and sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl.
Liam O’Grady fought back tears as he was handcuffed and taken from York Crown Court after a judge said he had grossly breached the trust placed in him by the girl’s parents.
The Recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, heard during a trial last year that O’Grady, 30, of Larchfield, Osbaldwick, York, sent sexual texts and pictures of himself to the teenager.
The court was told that O’Grady send her almost 5,000 texts in total, and abused her at his home, in his car and also in men’s toilets.
Last month, a jury found him guilty of one count of meeting a child following sexual grooming and three of sexual activity with a child.
Today, Judge Ashurst said that, if the sexual activity had begun just a few months earlier, when the girl was 12, O’Grady would have been going to jail for rape.
The judge said O’Grady was clearly still in denial about what he had done.
He said he had received a large amount of testimonials which spoke with “one voice” about how the defendant had contributed to his community.
But Judge Ashurst said: “Maybe your sporting prowess had given you a degree of confidence.
“It was as though you believed you could get away with it because of your position.”
O’Grady, who has won gold medals at world and European level, taught hundreds of children karate in York.
The judge told him it was clear he had developed a sexual attraction for the girl whom he had known since she was eight.
He said: “You made her feel special. You singled her out for special treatment.”
The judge said O’Grady put the girl through the ordeal of a trial and accused her of being a fantasist and said he had fallen into a trap.
The judge told him: “If you were trapped, it was a trap entirely of your own making.”
He said the girl’s parents “trusted you absolutely and their feelings of betrayal are only too clear”.
The judge said O’Grady would be placed on the Sex Offenders Register and banned from working with children.
He also gave him an indefinite Sex Offenders Prevention Order which restricts his access to female children.
Speaking outside the court, Det Insp Shaun Page, of North Yorkshire Police, said: “I am pleased with the result and I think the sentence today gives some comfort to the family of the victim.”
The officer said: “Liam O’Grady has protested his innocence throughout. He remained arrogant and determined to try and prove his innocence.”
Mr Page praised the courage of the victim and other children who gave evidence.
He also said officers had looked closely at whether there had been other victims but no-one had come forward.
Joe Cocker, from the York Safeguarding Children Board, said: “I want to commend the incredible courage of this young girl and her friends who were made to go through the ordeal of this trial by Mr O’Grady.
“What he did was not only abusive in terms of the acts he was found guilty of but also abusive in his cynical manipulation of this young girl.
“Her courage stands in stark contrast to his reprehensible pursuit of self-interest and cowardice.”