A TRUSTED swimming coach who groomed one of his underage teen athletes before embarking on a sexual relationship with her has been jailed.

John McGinty’s offending was outlined to a judge, where it was heard the 59-year-old would pay the girl to do jobs and buy her affections with gifts, such as tickets to watch Manchester United.

Highly sexualised messages between the pair, recovered by police, revealed how McGinty, who has run swimming clubs in Bolton and East Lancashire, got the child to call him ‘Captain’.

The victim later said that she ‘loved’ married McGinty and he had told her that he loved her.

The swimming coach was exposed when the victim’s sister became suspicious of the amount of time the teenager was spending with him.

She traced her younger sibling to a car park via the iPhone app Find My Friend, and decided to check on her, bringing their brother along.

Prosecuting, Lisa Worsley said the sister spotted McGinty lying on top of the victim in the car.

And when challenged, he said: "You brought your brother?"

Ms Worsley said the defendant claimed they had "got it all wrong" and she was just upset. The girl appeared shocked and upset and told them that he was her best friend.

The court heard how the victim’s sister took her phone from her and started to look through her messages, where she found sexual communication between the pair.

Messages included the victim telling McGinty that she was in love with him, and the exchange of naked photographs.

Concerns had been previously raised about McGinty showing favouritism and the swimming club’s safeguarding manager had warned him to not offer lifts or travel with children alone in his car.

McGinty agreed, but soon started spending time alone with the girl and was again warned about his conduct following a further incident. Shortly after, a new code of conduct was issued and circulated to the defendant and club members.

It also emerged McGinty had been reprimanded for paying for another of his students to do lifeguard training.

Defending, Mark Stevenson said: “Swimming coaching at the level at which the complainant wanted to compete is an intensive training schedule.

“Bonds do build between and athlete and a coach. He was someone to whom not just this complainant, but an awful lot of other pupils under the tutelage of his training, would seem to look up to.

“When one is doing the nature and quantity of training that he has been doing over the years, you either get on with the children or you don’t and to some degree you have to come down to their level.

“He is someone who in past has put many thousands if not tens of thousands of hours to the assistance of many people, none of whom have made a single complaint against him.

“What seems to have happened here is for whatever reason initially, he stepped over the line. He was foolish enough not to step back from that line and he continued.”

Mr Stevenson told the court this would be the first and last time McGinty, who was of previous good character, would appear in court.

He added: “He has the support of his family and his wife. This is a man who is going to custody today, the question is for how long.”

Jailing McGinty, of the Handbridge, Fulwood, for 27 months for offences of sexual communication with a child, meeting a child following sexual grooming, sexual activity with a child and the possession of indecent photos, Judge Graham Knowles QC described McGinty as a self-centred man who had tried to blame his actions on others.

He said: “You were a swimming coach and she an enthusiastic and committed swimmer.

“You knew that she had problems at home and you knew too that she was upset about having split up with a boyfriend.

“You began to groom her. You groomed her with treats and overpayment for work and more. You relied on the trust the club, her family, your family and others put in you as a coach in order to get away with these offences."