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The Daily Mail UK

"Wicked" lesbian tennis coach jailed for nearly three years over affair with 13-year-old pupil

Daily Mail, Liverpool, UK,By LIZ HULL, 2nd November 2007

A tennis coach who molested a 13-year-old girl pupil was condemned as "wicked" yesterday as she was jailed for almost three years.

Claire Lyte
Convicted female sex offender:
Claire Lyte on her way into court.

Claire Lyte, 29, was entrusted with helping to develop the next generation of young stars, but instead took advantage of the infatuated teenager.

Her breach of trust was exposed when the girl' s mother discovered them naked in bed together, but such was the hold Lyte had on the youngster that the abuse continued for months afterwards.

Yesterday, a judge told the former Wimbledon player that she corrupted and manipulated the youngster for her own "selfish sexual ends".

He said she had concocted "wicked allegations" about the girl and her family in a desperate attempt to escape conviction and had even persuaded her own parents to lie on oath to protest her innocence.

Lyte, who arrived at Liverpool Crown Court wearing jeans, a casual top and carrying a large overnight bag, was last month found guilty of four counts of sexual activity with a child.

She showed no emotion as Judge Nigel Gilmour QC jailed her for two years and nine months.

"As her coach you were in a position of trust and the girl' s family expected you to look after her," the judge said.

'Life-long passion': Lyte's barrister said she had thrown away a 'glittering career'

"In breach of their trust you corrupted that girl and you advanced her experience of sexual matters by some years.

"Your victim consented to what happened, but only to an extent that an infatuated 13-year-old admirer can be said to consent to this type of sexual activity.

"You welcomed her attention, you encouraged it and then you manipulated what had become her infatuation with you. You did that for your own selfish sexual ends.

"In an attempt to escape conviction you alleged against the victim' s family, three generations of them, that they were all part of a wicked conspiracy.

"The jury rejected those wicked allegations of yours. There was and never has been any such conspiracy.

"It follows from the verdicts that your parents, in all other respects wholly admirable members of society, gave lying evidence to the jury.

"There is no doubt they did so at your request. If there was a conspiracy in this trial to mislead the jury, that conspiracy was entirely at your own making."

During Lyte's two-week trial, the court heard that she seduced her pupil in May 2005 after she had begun coaching her at a tennis academy in Loughborough.

The two quickly became close, to the alarm of staff at the centre, who instituted disciplinary proceedings when they were spotted sharing a lavatory cubicle.

Although Lyte, once ranked 101 in the world, was issued with a written warning she did nothing to change her behaviour.

Instead, she created opportunities to be alone with the girl, driving her to tournaments and arranging for them to stay in hotel rooms together.

In October 2005, the girl's mother returned home unexpectedly and caught her daughter and Lyte naked in bed, performing a sex act together. The girl' s mother failed to report Lyte to police until ten months later.

Lyte denied ever having sexual contact with the girl and instead said her "pushy" mother concocted the allegations when her daughter' s tennis career began to falter.

However, the jury dismissed this theory and convicted Lyte, who is planning an appeal.

Last night, Lyte, from Solihull, West Midlands, was beginning her sentence alongside murderers and drug-dealers at HMP Styal, a medium security female jail in Cheshire.

Her barrister, David Mason, said she would find prison "harder than most" to cope with.

"Tennis was her life-long passion and she has thrown away a glittering career," he said.

Lyte's parents said they were standing by their daughter. Her father, Colin, 63, said: "I know my daughter is innocent."

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