Ice hockey administrators have this afternoon insisted the sport remains a safe environment for children and young people, after a former Sheffield Steelers player was jailed for a string of sex offences committed against young female fans.
Thomas Squires was sentenced to five years and four months in prison, with an additional three years on license at Sheffield Crown Court.
He was also placed on the Sex Offenders Register and handed a Sexual Harm Prevention Order (SHPO).
The charges relate to five victims, girls who were under the age of 16 at the time of the offences, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Charles Dacres, English Ice Hockey director responsible for child protection and a director with Ice Hockey UK, said: “Squires used his position as a sportsman and supposed role model to commit these offences against young girls.
“Ice hockey, like most sports these days, has robust safeguarding procedures in place to protect the young and vulnerable from people like Squires.
“Individuals who have contact with children and vulnerable adults do go through DBS checking, there is safeguarding education as part of coaching and management qualifications. All clubs have nominated safeguarding officers and the association has its own CPO with established procedures for reporting concerns or incidents.
“Tom Squires is a rogue individual as far as ice hockey is concerned, these crimes go back over five years and I would say that the situation would be detected by the systems in use now in clubs. Children and young adults can and should feel safe as part of this sport.”
Ice hockey has a dedicated safeguarding helpline which is 07546983700 or concerns can be emailed to safeguarding@EIHA.co.uk.
Detective Sergeant Aneela Khalil-Khan, the investigating officer in the case, said: “Squires was relatively well-known locally as an ice hockey player, as well as coaching the sport. He took advantage of this position of power to groom and sexually exploit his victims.
“He used his position as ice hockey coach to approach young girls, some of whom recognised him as a local hockey ‘star’, and began the grooming process.
“His victims have been remarkably brave coming forward to report their abuse and I am pleased that Squires pleaded guilty to multiple offences meaning they did not have to go through a trial process.
“He has now received a custodial sentence, which should prevent him from causing further harm. I understand that this investigation may cause some concern among the local sporting community, as well as families who may have interacted with Squires in the past.
“If you do have any concerns, please get in touch with police. You can also call or text the national helpline Say Something on 116 000 if you want any advice or support.”