A rugby club coach has been jailed for a year for ‘sexting’ two young girls and grooming them online.

Gavin Lendon, 52, of Lords Meadow, Redbourn, was a coach at Harpenden Rugby Club and used his position of trust to groom two young girls who attended the club. One of the girls was subjected to sexualised chat for a significant and harmful length of time.

St Albans Crown Court heard how he would message his victims, teenagers at the time of the offences, using WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and word games chat, using sexually explicit language and trying to persuade them to send him sexual images and engage in sexual activity with one another.

He was arrested when the father of one of the victims found worrying chat on his daughter’s Facebook messenger.

When Lendon was arrested he told officers: "I know what this is about, it’s about one of the girls at rugby… I said I loved her, her friend saw it and thought grooming."

He claimed there was no sexual motivation and that he felt ‘genuine concern’ and was trying to help.

When presented with the chat he agreed it was inappropriate and went against his safeguarding training as a sports coach. In one heavily sexual online chat group he set up with the two girls, Lendon was referred to as ‘God’. He sent the girls explicit images of women engaged in sex acts and asked them to send him photos.

On one occasion he collected one of his victims from school and took her to the Holiday Inn for something to eat. Another time they had lunch at a Toby Carvery. He would often buy her alcohol at the rugby club.

Lendon admitted two counts of inciting a child into sexual activity between November 2017 and February 2018 when he appeared at St Albans Crown Court on May 23.

Today, at the same court, he was jailed for one year.

Darren Francey, chairman at Harpenden RFC, said: "As soon as we became aware of this investigation the individual in question was suspended from the club. We worked with the Rugby Football Union and the police to ensure that safeguarding measures were in place and the individual’s membership has since been revoked. Safeguarding the young players at our club is paramount and will remain so."

Investigating officer Detective Constable Georgie Fenge, from the child online safeguarding team, said: "Lendon abused his position of trust as a local rugby coach and inflicted the young teenagers to a stream of appalling sexualised messages. I am pleased to see this despicable man sent to prison and given a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for 10 years and a notification requirement for the next 10 years.”

The Constabulary’s safeguarding team carry out significant enquiries and officers provide on-going support to victims. If you would like to contact the investigating officer in this case, please email at georgina.fenge@herts.pnn.police.uk or call 101.