POLICE have praised a business owner after he supported an investigation into a paedophile employed by him.

Sports coach Antonio Lawrie, who worked as an apprentice at MyCoaching, was last week found guilty at Southampton Crown Court of assaulting a child as young as seven-years-old, at least 16 times during a six month reign of abuse.

Although none of the abuse took place at MyCoaching, managing director James Welsh told the Daily Echo details about the 21-year-old’s employment and safeguarding that takes place at the Hedge End based sport company.

Following the hearing, Detective Constable Mariette Ladd, from the Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “This investigation has been a good example of Hampshire Constabulary working in partnership with other agencies to ensure the safeguarding of children.

“We are grateful to Mr Welsh and the team at MyCoaching for the support and assistance that they provided throughout this investigation.”

Mr Welsh confirmed that Lawrie was employed for the firm - which delivers further education programmes for young adults aged between 15 and 19-years-old - between between September 1, 2015 and June 5, 2017.

He added: “In his role he was never left alone with classes and was always supervised by a senior mentor.”

Schools he has taught at while working for My Coaching include Ludlow Infant School, Townhill Infant School and Harefield Primary School – all part of the Hamwic Education Trust.

The trust did not comment, but said it was the responsibility of each school to choose its sports club operators.

Head teacher of both Ludlow and Townhill schools, Beverly Corbin, released a statement to parents in which she assured them that Lawrie was never unsupervised with children.

She added that Southampton City Council’s designated officer had “no concerns” that any pupils were at risk.

Harefield head teacher, Georgia Radford, released a similar statement to parents.and added that the school would no longer use My Coaching.

Lawrie, of Bluebell Road, Southampton, will be sentenced next month.