A FORMER cheerleading coach has been jailed after being found guilty of sexual offences against children, as well as possessing and distributing child abuse images.

On Monday, February 5, Tom Walsh, of Shaw Lane in Prescot, was sentenced at Bolton Crown Court after being convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse against three girls, as well as possession and distribution of child abuse images.

The 37-year-old was found guilty of 28 charges relating to sexual offences against children which took place between 2011 and 2020, following a criminal trial at Bolton Crown Court that concluded on Friday 2 February 2024.

Walsh was a cheerleader and assisted in the coaching of children for a number of years. It was here where he met two of the victims, with the third being groomed online.

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St Helens Star: Walsh was sentenced at Bolton Crown CourtWalsh was sentenced at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)
The sexual offences against the victims were committed in Manchester and Liverpool, although Walsh also communicated with several girls across the UK to obtain child abuse images from them.

An investigation into his offending was launched following an investigation by Regional Organised Crime Units (ROCU) where covert officers communicated with Walsh online. As enquiries progressed, Walsh’s sexual interest in children – young girls - became apparent.

The investigation led to Walsh being arrested on 20 August 2020 on suspicion of possession and distribution of child abuse images.

The investigation subsequently uncovered numerous indecent images of children saved on Walsh’s device and messages between himself and a number of victims.

It was reported that Walsh primarily used the app Snapchat to communicate with his victims and evidence of screen recording software was recovered which showed how the defendant had saved child abuse images and his conversations with victims.

St Helens Star: Tom Walsh was first arrested in 2020Tom Walsh was first arrested in 2020 (Image: GMP)
Following the police's investigation, several victims were identified, including the three girls who were victims of child sexual abuse.

One victim was contacted online when she was just 13-years-old and over the next six years, she was groomed and sexually abused by Walsh, and was even sent child abuse images.

Two further victims, who were teenagers at the time, came in contact with Walsh through cheerleading, were identified during the investigation.

Walsh was sentenced to 15 years in jail with a further 5 years on license. He also received a lifetime sexual harm prevention order and was registered as a sex offender for life.

St Helens Star: A thorough investigation was carried out by Greater Manchester PoliceA thorough investigation was carried out by Greater Manchester Police (Image: GMP)
Detective Chief Inspector Suzanne Keenaghan, GMP’s Designated Force Co-ordinator for Child Protection in the Public Protection Division, said: “This jail sentence would not have been possible without the courage and strength of the victims and the tireless efforts of the entire investigation team.

“This was an incredibly difficult investigation, but I am pleased the defendant will now finally answer for his despicable actions. Walsh was placed in a position of authority and he professed to be a father figure and friend to his victims, but he was their abuser.

“He was manipulative predatory and exploitative and used typical grooming behaviour to befriend children who were going through difficult times and were vulnerable. He betrayed their trust and inflicted life-long trauma onto children for his own sexual gratification.

“For one victim, cheerleading was supposed to be a safe space but Walsh used it as his hunting ground. He has never shown remorse or recognition for what he has done.

“It’s entirely possible Walsh’s offending could have gone on unchecked and harmed more children were it not for the proactive work of the ROCU team who carried out a covert investigation and brought his despicable crimes to light.

“I also want to commend our own officer Detective Constable Ceri Martin who went above and beyond what was required of her to identify and meet with the victims and spent months earning their trust and supporting them to report what had happened to police.

"It is in large part thanks to her efforts that the victims finally have justice today and I am so proud of her and the brilliant people like her that we have in this unit who are doing their utmost to protect children.

“I hope this case also reminds parents and young people of the dangers. Abusers can be people you know and trust and they can take advantage of that trust. I would therefore urge parents and teachers to speak to children and young people about the signs of abuse and spread awareness of how to stay safe online.

“Sexual abuse is never the fault of the victim and no one should feel the need to suffer in silence. It is never too late to tell someone and seek help.”

Detective Chief Inspector Al Burns of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit (YHROCU) said: “Our team of online investigators work tirelessly to ensure that individuals like Tom Walsh are identified and children can be safeguarded and removed from further harm. 

“YHROCU worked in partnership with Greater Manchester Police to bring this predator to justice.” 

Support Available:

  • If you or someone you know has been a victim of rape or sexual assault, we encourage you not to suffer in silence and report it to the police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.
  • You can also report information and crimes on our website (www.gmp.police.uk) using the 'report' tool. Alternatively, you can report information anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
  • There are also lots of organisations and support agencies available across Greater Manchester and Merseyside that can help and provide support for you.