A pedophile referee went to children’s football matches until he was scolded


A pedophile who was jailed for using his role as a wrestling referee to target children turned to football after his release.

Roman Fletcher, formerly known as Peter Burns, used his training as a football official to bond with children.

But the 21-year-old, who is on a 10-year sexual abuse prevention order (SHPO), was scolded by a trainer who recognized him.

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Fletcher, from Runcorn, Cheshire, started leading the line and giving offside decisions in youth games until he was scouted by FA coach Natalie Pinnington, who coaches the girls’ under-14 team Brookvale United in Warrington.

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

However, she had not seen him for several years and knew he was not allowed to work with children and that she would have to contact the FA if she saw him on youth football grounds, reports the Echo.

Fletcher was previously called Peter Burns

On September 26 last year, while training at the Orford Jubilee Neighborhood Hub in Warrington, she spotted a man with a Sports Direct carry bag.

Ms Mottram said: “Ms Pinnington thought he was either the referee or some assistant because he had stood at the side of the pitch and at one point ruled on an offside .”

Ms Pinnington saw the man talking to a fan aged around six, then playing football with a group of youngsters aged around 10 to 12, before she was told it was Peter Burns.

On October 10, Fletcher returned to the hub and was spotted by Ms Pinnington 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 eight-year-old children at 13 years old.

The court heard Ms Pinnington took a picture of him on her phone and contacted the FA.

Ms Mottram said Fletcher returned to the center on November 7, when he played football with boys aged between nine and 12. This time Mrs Pinnington called the police and Fletcher fled.

When arrested and questioned, he agreed to break his order but “stated that he had no intention of causing sexual abuse to children”.

Fletcher admitted to three violations of his SHPO.

In 2017, Fletcher received a youth dismissal order for four offenses of enticing a child to engage in sexual activity, involving a boy and three girls.

In 2019, he was jailed for 12 months for an offense on the same count, relating to a boy, when he was hit with the SHPO.

Ms Mottram said: “These offenses involve this defendant engaging with children under the age of 13, around the age of 11 or 12, in effect under the guise of wrestling and inviting them to perform wrestling moves with him, to the point to sit on his face during wrestling moves. That’s the modus operandi for all of these offences.”

Recorder Ian Harris said police looked at Fletcher’s phone in November and found text messages in which he told a friend that if the police found out he was attending children’s football games, “he would go from anyway”.

The judge said in a “contradictory” pre-sentence report that Fletcher said he did not blame his autism diagnosis for the offenses but also denied any sexual attraction to the children.

Recorder Harris said a probation officer found his account “implausible” because he had “a history of grooming behavior towards children”.

Jeremy Rawson, defending, asked the judge to bear in mind his client’s autism and “demanding and avoiding pathological syndrome”.

Liverpool Crown Court
Liverpool Crown Court

Mr Rawson said: “He suffered significant bullying as a young boy, so much so that he finds it difficult to relate to those his own age.”

The lawyer said Fletcher, of Halton Road, Runcorn, was ‘obsessed with football’ and on his release from prison tried to join an FA program called Man v Fat, set up to help people having weight issues.

But the FA found out about his beliefs and barred him from the scheme so he was ‘left in a footballing stalemate’.

Mr Rawson said Fletcher, who lost his job due to physical problems, expressed “regret and remorse”.

Recorder Harris said Fletcher “attended a children’s football pitch and appeared on at least one occasion to help officiate”, but was spotted by Ms Pinnington.

He said, “On October 10, she actually approached you. You said you were helping run the line.”

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

He told Fletcher, “It’s a continuing violation that could, and in my view, would have caused harm.”

Recorder Harris said the perv’s criminal record and past offenses showed continued “sexual attraction and infatuation with children”.

Imprisoning him for 16 months, Recorder Harris found that Fletcher’s mental state and diagnoses did not affect his guilt.

He said: “You were cunning and deceitful in your actions when you broke the order on those three occasions and you knew full well what you were doing.

“I have no doubt that a future form of child molestation would have occurred.”

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