Railway volunteer hid child sex offence from colleagues

Mike Garnett, 27, of  Ashton Road, Newton Heath, Manchester, has admitted sexual assault on a child
Mike Garnett, 27, of Ashton Road, Newton Heath, Manchester, has admitted sexual assault on a child
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A well-known volunteer at a popular family visitor attraction has admitted a sexual assault on a child.

Rail enthusiast Mike Garnett, 27, had helped at the Preston-based Ribble Steam Railway for four years.

It has emerged he had not told fellow volunteers about his arrest, meaning he was able to work for the organisation up until his sentencing at Manchester Crown Court.

He was suspended when shocked members sent him an email after learning about the court case.

Garnett, of Ashton Road, Newton Heath, Manchester, has to sign the sex offender’s register for five years.

The former garden centre worker was given a community order with a requirement to take part in a probation programme.

Dave Watkins, chairman of Ribble Steam Railway, said: “We are gobsmacked. He will be suspended immediately and will be getting an email.

“His role does not involved working with children directly and so he would not have undergone safeguarding checks in the same way volunteers working with school groups or having contact with the public would have.

“But he would still come into contact on the platform with young people when he gets out of the cab.”

He added: “He is the second man, a trainee driver if you like. He has been with us for four or five years.

“We didn’t know about his arrest, he did not inform us so he continued working for us.

“The community here will be as shocked as I was. It’s hit me hard as I thought I knew him well.”

The Ribble Steam Railway is a standard gauge preserved railway which opened to the public in September 2005, running through the Preston Docks area.

The museum houses much of the collection from the old Southport Railway Museum and is said to have the largest collection of industrial locomotives in the country and is popular with rail enthusiasts and families.