Jailed athletics coach Stephen Benson, of Ipswich, faces £30k legal bill after sex convictions

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court.

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A jailed Ipswich teacher and athletics coach is facing a £30,000 legal bill as a result of his conviction for sexually abusing three of his protégés.

Stephen Benson, formerly of Pearson’s Way, Copdock, was sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment in May 2013 after being found guilty of 21 offences.

The 53-year-old was convicted of nine rapes, six indecent assaults, two sex assaults and two counts of sexual activity with a child after a five-week trial at Ipswich Crown Court. The girls were aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the offences.

Benson had denied all the charges. He was found not guilty of two further rape charges.

His appeal against his conviction was turned down in May 2014.

Benson, who taught at Copleston High School for many years, is said to have received around £30,000 in legal aid to fund his defence.

Now the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is understood to be in the process of clawing the money back.

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When asked about Benson’s case a spokesman for the MoJ said: “Anyone facing a Crown Court trial is eligible for legal aid, subject to a strict means test, but may be required to pay significant contributions - up to the entire cost of their defence.

“We are clear that the taxpayer should not have to foot the bill for criminals when they have the means to pay, which is why we make efforts to recover costs where possible.

At Benson’s sentencing Judge David Goodin told him: “Over the years you ruthlessly and repeatedly betrayed the trust of parents and daughters, callously and adroitly exploiting the relationship between you and parents and between you and the child and between the child and parents.”

Benson was a nationally renown youth athletics coach

During his trial the court had heard that Benson was “controlling” and “manipulative” and wormed his way into the teenagers’ families.

He had allegedly groomed the girls for sex after convincing them and their parents they could be stars of the future.

Benson was described as a “charming, intelligent, manipulative and controlling” man.

He became so involved in the girls’ lives that he would regularly have supper with them.

The trial jury was told that from the 1980s Benson abused his position and groomed a series of girls for his “own benefit and sexual gratification”.

Giving evidence, Benson claimed he only had sexual relationships with two of the athletes he had trained but these were consensual relationships after the girls were 16.