August 2001

Anger as sex abuser spared prison

PARENTS have reacted with fury after a lifeguard who persuaded schoolgirls to perform sex acts on him at a leisure centre escaped prison yesterday.

Mark Eyles, 23, a former worker at the Dolphin Centre, in Darlington, was given an 18-month suspended sentence at Teesside Crown Court.

He admitted six charges of indecent assault on girls under 16, and one charge of indecency with a child under 14. He was also placed on the sex offenders register.

The court heard that at the time of the offences, in July 1999, Eyles was the object of teenage crushes by a group of girls who regularly visited the centre.

Judge Peter Fox described them as “silly girls”, and reproached good-looking Eyles for accepting their advances.

He said: “Your five years’ employment at the Dolphin Centre was exemplary but for this short-term failure in your duty.”

Last night, a mother of one of the victims said his comments were “disgusting.” She said: “They have been branded silly girls, but they are not. Eyles was in a place of authority and he was old enough to say no. How would he feel if it was his bairn?”

The court was told that the lifeguard, who was 21 at the time, took two 15-year-olds into a room known as the engine room, before locking the door and switching the lights off.

Once inside, he persuaded one of the youngsters to carry out two sex acts on him while her friend watched.

A fortnight later, she returned with another friend and was again led to the room. Eyles persuaded them to perform oral sex.

The court heard that Eyles, of Silverdale Place, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, later approached a 13-year-old girl and her friend. He performed a lewd act and tried to get them to go with him to the room, but they refused.

The court heard that the offences only came to light when Eyles, formerly of West Auckland Road, Darlington, barred the girls from the leisure centre for misbehaving and they threatened to expose him.

Dolphin Centre manager Philip Haymer described Eyles as a “magnet for females of all ages”.