Paedophile wrestling ref attended children's football matches until he was rumbled by coach

Roman Fletcher
Roman Fletcher

Roman Fletcher, who was previously known as Peter Burns, utilised his training as a football official to approach kids

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A paedophile who was put behind bars for using his job as a wrestling referee to target children turned to football after he was released.

Roman Fletcher, who was previously known as Peter Burns, utilised his training as a football official to approach kids.

But the 21-year-old from Cheshire, who is bound by a 10-year Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO), was rumbled by a coach who recognised him.

FA coach Natalie Pinnington, who coaches girls under-14s team Brookvale United in Warrington, spotted Fletcher, who was running the line and giving offside decisions at youth games.

Prosecuting, Cheryl Mottram told Liverpool Crown Court that Ms Pinnington had worked with Fletcher when he was 14 or 15 as he refereed games she was involved in.

However, she hadn't seen him for a few years and knew he wasn't permitted to work with children.

She also knew she should get in touch with the FA if she ever saw him at youth football pitches, the Echo reports.

On September 26 last year, she spotted a man with a Sports Direct carrier bag while coaching at Orford Jubilee Neighbourhood Hub in Warrington.

The prosecutor said: "Ms Pinnington had thought he was either the referee or an assistant of some sort, as he had stood about the side of the pitch and at one point, he gave a decision on an offside."

Ms Pinnington saw him talking to a fan aged around six, then playing football with a bunch of children aged around 10 to 12, before she was told it was Peter Burns.

On October 10, Fletcher returned and was spotted by Ms Pinnington again at the side of the pitch.

Fletcher was told to leave and wait outside, which he did.

But at the end of the game he came back and went in goal while playing football with a group of children aged between eight and 13.

The court heard Ms Pinnington snatched photo of him on her phone and contacted the FA.

Ms Mottram said Fletcher came back to the hub once again on November 7, when he played football with boys aged between nine and 12.

This time Ms Pinnington called the police and Fletcher fled.

When arrested and interviewed, he accepted breaching his order but "stated he had no intention of causing any child sexual harm".

Fletcher confessed three breaches of his SHPO.

In 2017, Fletcher was given a youth referral order for four offences of encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, relating to one boy and three girls.

In 2019, he was put behind bars for 12 months for one offence of the same charge, concerning a boy, when he was hit with the SHPO.

Ms Mottram said: "Those offences involve this defendant engaging with children under 13, around 11 or 12, in fact under the guise of wrestling and inviting them to perform wrestling moves with him, to the extent of sitting on his face during the wrestling moves. That is the modus operandi for all of those offences."

Jeremy Rawson, defending, asked the judge to keep in mind of his client's autism and "pathological demand and avoidance syndrome".

Mr Rawson said: "He suffered significant bullying whilst he was a young boy, to such an extent he has difficulty in relating to those of his own age."

The lawyer said Fletcher was "football obsessed" and when he came out of prison, he tried to join an FA scheme called Man v Fat, which was set up to help people with weight issues.

But the FA found out about his convictions and forbade him from the scheme, so he was "left very much at a dead end as far as football was concerned".

Mr Rawson also said Fletcher, who lost a job because of physical issues, expressed "regret and remorse".

The judge said Ms Pinnington later called the police, adding: "She is to be commended for her behaviour."

He told Fletcher: "It's a persistent breach that may, and in my judgement would, have led to harm."