Karate union apologises to brave victims after sporting 'hero' has dark secret uncovered

A man doing karate
Karate champion and sensei Andrew Sherry, pictured here in 2008, has been convicted of sexually assaulting teenagers -Credit:Essex Chronicle

Former karate champion Andrew Sherry was one of the most senior practitioners of the sport - and as the sensei in charge of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB), was treated as a "hero" by many.

But Sherry harboured deep secrets and this week was jailed for two years for the historic sexual abuse of teenagers who he was supposed to be training. The now 80-year-old, a ninth dan black belt, founded the Red Triangle karate club in Everton and achieved "prominence and standing" in the sport, before he retired in March 2022 after a police investigation was launched.

Sherry was initially accused of indecently assaulting a boy under the age of 16 in the 1980s. He also faced four counts of sexual assault of a boy in 2011 or 2012. His defence barrister claimed the allegations were the result of a conspiracy by other practitioners who wanted to "overthrow their leader". But a jury at Liverpool Crown Court disagreed and Sherry was found guilty of all five counts on March 22.

READ MORE: "You think you can f*** my baby mamma and get away with it? Was it worth it? What are you going to do lad?"

READ MORE: Man stabbed to death named and pictured

Sentencing him, Judge David Swinnerton said: "You have lived a life in which you have been lauded and celebrated while your victims have suffered." He said although Sherry, who had no previous convictions, had a positive influence on many young people, it was clear his interest in young men went beyond an interest in their "sporting prowess".

He said: "It is perhaps a tragedy for you, your karate club and those who will be impacted, but particularly for your victims, that you were unable to exercise the discipline and self control which I understand is central to karate when it comes to your sexuality."

Sherry was born near Liverpool's city centre and while still at school became interested in Japanese martial arts. He started to train in judo and in 1956 took up ju-jitsu, before becoming interested in karate. He helped form the Liverpool Karate club and studied under a number of legendary figures in the sport.

He became the first person in Great Britain to be awarded the rank of Shodan in 1966, was the KUGB's first Kata champion in 1967 and the following year became the first grand champion by winning both the Kata and Kumite events. Following his retirement in 1977, he became joint coach and manager at KUGB, with the team's success peaking when they defeated Japan to win the World Shotokan Karate Championships.

However, by this time he had already assaulted one of his victims. Liverpool Crown Court heard in March that Sherry assaulted the boy in the mid-1980s and asked him to perform "special favours". The boy, who was aged between 12 and 16 at the time, said Sherry had wrestled with him while at his bungalow in West Derby, Liverpool, before taking him to Knowsley Safari Park where he spoke about monkeys having sex.

The victim said he could see that Sherry was "aroused". The man, who said he was groomed by Sherry, told the court: "He said ‘I’ll give you money, you’ll come to all the sporting events with me, you’ll stay with me, you won’t want for nothing, any clothes you want, anything you want. I’ll teach you how to become the best’."

The court heard the complainant had since struggled with alcohol and gone on to commit criminal offences. The judge said: "You had an impact on him psychologically which has had lasting echoes on him throughout his life." The second complainant, who was 18 at the time of the assaults, said Sherry massaged him on the buttocks and kissed him on the lips on more than one occasion.

Andrew Ford KC, prosecuting, told the court the victim said Sherry made him think "he had a real shot at becoming something special". He added: "His life became one of confusion, betrayal, distrust and worry about how he would be touched." He described Sherry asking if he could "hold" him and putting his arms around him.

The man said: "I accepted this because Andrew Sherry was my instructor and it was a case of if he said ‘jump’, I said ‘how high?' He also said on one occasion Sherry asked if he wanted to join him in the bedroom and was "visibly disappointed" when they did not have sex. Two other men, who Sherry was not charged with offences against, claimed he had propositioned them in the 1990s. One of them told the court: "He was an inspirational teacher to me. He was my hero."

The judge said: "This is an abuse of trust, undoubtedly. You were their mentor, their teacher, their idol and you abused that position and groomed them." Tania Griffiths KC, defending, told the court it was not accepted that the life of the first victim had been "ruined by alcoholism caused by any abuse" and said an impact statement from the second complainant, who sat at the back of court, was "exaggerated". The court heard Sherry was planning to appeal against the convictions.

Ms Griffiths said: "He has lost everything by these convictions. He's lost his good name, lost his reputation and lost his world standing." Sherry, most recently of Mann Island, Liverpool city centre, showed no emotion in the dock as he was jailed.

Following his sentencing, the KUGB released a statement expressing its "heartfelt sympathy for the victims of Mr Sherry" and "apologising unreservedly" to them. The statement said: "His offending was an abuse of his position of authority and a breach of the trust placed in him by his students, their parents and indeed the whole membership of the organisation.

"The sentence passed by the court reflects the seriousness of the matter and we hope achieves the justice the victims deserve. We would like to publicly commend the victims’ courage in speaking out and their bravery in testifying in a contested trial providing the evidence which led to his conviction.

Former karate champion Andrew Sherry
Former karate champion Andrew Sherry -Credit:Dave Wilson

"Their reporting of these crimes and the manipulative behaviour behind them will help to ensure that abuse of this nature is less likely to happen in the future. No one should ever have experienced the abuse they did and we stand firmly with them. Throughout the legal proceedings our duties of confidentiality when dealing with sensitive disclosures of information from Merseyside Police and the local authority designated officer meant that we have not previously been able to make public statements about the case.

"We appreciate and understand the sense of frustration that this necessity has caused amongst our members and the wider community. Now that the legal process in the crown court has concluded we would like to address this matter with the utmost sincerity and clarity. The KUGB utterly condemns any forms of misconduct or abuse. We have been shocked by the case which has ridden roughshod over our core values of trust, respect, and integrity which are of paramount importance to us all."

The organisation, who said it has established new safeguarding procedures, added: "Let us unite as a community, learn from this experience and emerge stronger, more resilient, and more committed than ever to the values that define us. Karate-do can have such a positive impact on people’s physical and mental health and overall wellbeing. However, nothing matters more than making sure it is a safe activity for everyone which is why we will continue to keep the safeguarding of children and adults at the heart of everything we do."

Detective Constable Phil Youds, of Merseyside Police, said: "We welcome today's sentencing, which follows a long and complex investigation into Sherry, who used his status in the karate community to take advantage of his young victims, at his home and a karate club.

"The repeated denials of Sherry have further prolonged the suffering of his victims, and I'd like to take this opportunity to praise their courage in coming forward and assisting our investigation, especially in light of others looking to discredit their experiences.

"For victims of such an appalling crime, the impact on them has been significant and long-lasting. I hope this sentence provides some comfort in knowing they did the right thing in reporting Sherry to the police."

Don't miss the biggest and breaking stories by signing up to the Echo Daily newsletter here.