Bob Bellew admitted eight child sex offences in schools and gyms
He was handed 15-months suspended sentence after showing remorse
Judges reject CPS appeal to increase term because it’s not ‘unduly lenient’
Victims say courts ‘favour’ the abuser above those who were attacked
Reposted from a story By Martin Robinson PUBLISHED: 05:14 EST, 10 June 2013 | UPDATED: 07:13 EST, 10 June 2013
A renowned gymnastics coach who abused students as young as six over 40 years has avoided jail for the second time.
Robert ‘Bob’ Bellew, 66, admitted attacking girls at schools and gyms across the country, but was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence in April after a judge said he had shown remorse.
The pensioner, who served on a committee planning London 2012, admitted seven counts of indecent assault and one of sexual activity with a child.
His victims were outraged and the Crown Prosecution Service then appealed to try to get him thrown in jail.
But three senior judges at London’s Appeal Court have now rejected a bid by the Solicitor General, Oliver Heald QC, to jail Bellew at the second time of asking and to increase his sentence, because they believed his 15-month suspended term ‘was not unduly lenient.’
Speaking after the hearing, one of Bellew’s victims and her family slammed the courts for ‘favouring’ the abuser over those he had ‘scarred for the rest of their lives’.
During the Appeal Court hearing Lady Justice Rafferty, who was among the three judges considering the CPS’s application, said Bellew’s shining reputation was ‘shattered’ after it emerged he had molested seven girls between the early 1970s and 2010, often using coaching sessions as a cover for his abuse.
The appeal judge said the former Community Coach of the Year lifted the leotards of some girls, rubbing and touching their genitals, grabbing one’s bottom and molesting another while she performed a handstand.
Lady Justice Rafferty said one of Bellew’s first victims said she was terrified of telling anyone of his unwanted advances ‘because he was her coach and others trusted him.’
Bellew, of New Cross, in south-east London, made one gymnast sit on his lap and rubbed her groin, saying ‘these were the muscles which she needed to work on’, before patting her bottom, the appeal judge said.
Referring to statements made by his victims, Lady Justice Rafferty said: ‘Some endure difficulties still in trusting men and, in general, each victim feels that her personal relationships have been affected by what she has had to endure.’
When sentencing him April, Judge Joanna Korner spared Bellew jail, suspending his sentence for two years after saying his case called for ‘mercy’ from the court.
Duncan Atkinson, for the Solicitor General, argued that the judge ought to have imposed a term above two years – which would have excluded the possibility of a suspension.
He said: ‘Bellew was entrusted to be with these young girls by their families to benefit them through gymnastics training. It was, as the sentencing judge recognised, a gross breach of trust and this was not reflected in the sentence imposed.’
Mr Atkinson said Bellew had since received a caution for witness intimidation after writing a letter to one of his victims after proceeedings.
But while Mr Barry Kogan, for Bellew, accepted the sentence was short, he denied it was excessively soft.
He said: ‘A total of 15 months was arguably somewhat on the lenient side but not unduly so. Further, there was indeed sufficient mitigation before the judge to justify her decision to make the suspended sentence order she did.’
Lady Justice Rafferty agreed with the first judge, Judge Joanna Korner, and said: ‘We are not inclined to disturb the 15 months on which this judge settled’
The barrister said Bellew suffered from a heart condition and psychological problems as a result of the proceedings and argued his mitigation ‘outweighed’ the aggravating factors of the case.
‘He is a broken man and I don’t think he will ever recover. He has lost his life’s work and, as the sentencing judge accepted quite openly, that, in some sense, was a severe sentence in itself,’ Mr Kogan added.
Lady Justice Rafferty, sitting with Mr Justice Keith and Judge Jeremy Goss QC, rejected claims that the length of sentence was simply too short.
‘Whilst some judges might well have imposed a term of more than 15 months, we are not inclined to disturb the 15 months on which this judge settled,’ she added.
The appeal judge admitted the court had ‘struggled’ to decide whether Bellew should have been caged but ultimately rejected the solicitor general’s challenge against the suspension.
‘After significant anxiety, we have concluded that the term of 15 months suspended for two years was not unduly lenient,’ she concluded.
Speaking after the hearing, one of Bellew’s victims said she felt let down by the justice system after watching the paedophile twice walk free.
She said: ‘I don’t think I would come forward and complain again.
‘It is nothing to do with what the police have done, but the judges – they favour the abusers rather than the people who have been abused.’
Her mother slammed the decision, saying she felt furious that Bellew was free to walk the streets after inflicting so much pain and suffering on his victims.
She said: ‘This is going to affect others who want to come forward. They are going to reference this case and refuse to come forward and another paedophile is going to get away with it again.
‘We could have taken this into our own hands. If my husband had done that, he would have gone to prison. We have tried to do the right thing and this is what happens.’
The victim’s father added: ‘I feel sorry for the police trying to catch these people and bring them to court. They have got Bellew bang to rights and then he gets away with it. These girls have been scarred for life.