A SWIMMING coach has lost her appeal against a conviction for assaulting a child.

Janet Hewitt, the former head coach of the West Dorset Warriors, wept as she was told by Judge Peter Johnson today that the appeal had been dismissed following a hearing at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Judge Johnson said: "I'm afraid quite simply we do not believe her account.

"It's clear that this was a fleeting aberration on her part but it is our duty to apply the law in this case.

"We would hope this conviction is not something which would cause irreparable harm to her acting as a swimming coach. In our judgement, she is a fit and proper person and society would be poorer if it were deprived of her services."

The case centred on an incident after a swimming gala at the Dorchester Sports Centre in April last year, where a 10-year-old girl said she was grabbed by the arm by Hewitt, leaving a bruise.

It was witnessed by the girl's friend and both mothers of the youngsters.

Hewitt, aged 69, of Garfield Avenue, Dorchester, was convicted of the offence at Weymouth Magistrates Court in October.

At least 30 of Hewitt's friends and supporters attended court to hear the verdict.

Representing Hewitt, Rufus Taylor said: "I have never presented this level of character evidence in a case before.

"There are people who are demanding to come to court and speak up for her.

"She is a pillar of the West Dorset community and has touched thousands of lives in her volunteering."

He added: "Her evidence is that it was an accident."

The court also heard character evidence from a number of people, including Rachel Horne, headteacher of Winterbourne Valley First School, former mayor of Dorchester, Councillor David Barrett and head of PE at Thomas Hardye School Geraint Hughes.

A young witness, aged 13, gave evidence that the girls had 'bumped into' the appellant as she was picking something up off the floor.

She told the court she had not seen any 'grabbing'.

Prosecuting, Anita Gibson-Lee said the bench must decide a 'matter of fact'.

She said: "What we are talking about is a person in a position of trust and a 10-year-old child who by the appellant's own evidence is not misbehaving.

"This is not reasonable chastisement of a child.

"Nobody can suggest that anyone had an axe to grind. This is a mother who saw her child being assaulted."

She added: "This is a woman who has fantastic references and a glowing reputation.

"This is not a witch-hunt. This is a lady we say lost her temper. It does happen to the best of people.

"But in this case it affected a 10-year-old girl who ended up with a bruise and very upset."