An RAF cadet group leader from Carterton molested one of his young charges while on a radio course with the air force.

Corporal Gary Larner, 28, who has been decorated for his service overseas, was described as having ‘groomed’ two 15-year-old female cadets in 2018 and 2019.

The married airman touched both girls, tried to kiss one while they were on a cadet course with the Royal Air Force, pestered them over social media, and got both to send him explicit photographs of themselves.

One of his victims told detectives that Larner told her she ‘owed’ him. She was unsure what he meant, she said, but thought that she might have got on courses through the cadets as a result of entertaining his communication.

The second girl’s dream of a career in the RAF as a medic had been abandoned, the court heard. The girl suffered from anxiety and nightmares following the defendant’s abuse of her.

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Jailing him for 40 months at Oxford Crown Court on Friday (June 9), Judge Maria Lamb told the disgraced serviceman: “You had a position in the RAF that gave you significant responsibilities in terms of your behaviour towards the young cadets under your leadership and that position you sorely abused.

“You abused too the trust of the parents of those two girls, who must have assumed that when they were attending the meetings that they did with you that they were attending meetings with somebody who bore in mind the safeguarding of their daughters.

“Because you seriously undermined the safeguarding provisions which had been put in place by the RAF, not least by persisting in contacting them over social media…despite having been warned not to do so.”

Prosecutor Gabrielle McAvock told the court that Larner, then around 23 years old, met both his victims through his voluntary work with the air cadets.

Both girls were 15 when they were touched sexually by the RAF man and sent him explicit photographs at his request.

She sent him photographs of her body at his request, the court heard. He also went to her home while her mother was at work, removing her trousers and touching the girl.

The second victim was also 15 years old when, in September and October 2019, she was targeted by the cadet leader.

In September 2019, while on an RAF radio course, he slipped his hand beneath a table and touched the girl’s thigh over her combat trousers. He tried to kiss her later the same day.

On other occasions, the pair were said to have kissed in a field near the girl’s home. Like the first victim, she sent Larner images of herself at his request.

Ms McAvock said the offending was aggravated by the fact Larner had failed to respond to previous warnings by his bosses in the RAF after it was found he was talking to the cadets on social media.

Interviewed by the police in 2020 then again the following year, Larner denied the allegations and claimed not to have met the girls outside cadets.

Witney Gazette: Gary Larner outside Oxford Crown Court in AprilGary Larner outside Oxford Crown Court in April (Image: Oxford Mail)

The defendant, of Robinson Close, Carterton, initially denied any wrongdoing but eventually pleaded guilty in April to six charges of sexual activity with a child, sparing the girls from having to give pre-recorded evidence.

Although not charged with further offences, the court heard in April that detectives had uncovered text messages between Larner and a third cadet – unconnected to the two victims – in which they spoke in graphic, sexual terms.  

The prosecution had hoped to put the texts in front of the jury at Larner’s trial as evidence of the RAF man’s alleged bad character, but the Crown’s application was refused by the judge.

Alistair Grainger, mitigating for Larner on Friday, said his client was a decorated airman with a number of ‘restricted honours’ awarded by senior RAF officers that were so secret the judge was ‘not entitled to have sight’ of them. Among the character references provided in his support was one from a Squadron Leader Parry.

Larner had been commended for his involvement in humanitarian efforts, including in the wake of the 2015 terrorist attack on a beach resort in Tunisia, the court heard.

The barrister pointed to his client’s remorse, quoting Larner’s words that he had ‘disgraced’ himself.

The airman will remain on the sex offender register for life.