A CHILD abuser who carried out multiple attacks on his seven-year-old victim has been jailed after judges at the Court of Appeal overturned his sentence.

Antonio Lawrie, who worked as a sports coach in the city, had initially been handed a suspended sentence for his crimes against the youngster.

Following his trial at Southampton Crown Court, a top judge said the 22-year-old should not be sent to prison as he would be “taken advantage of” inside.

However, the Crown Prosecution Service launched an appeal, describing the original sentence of two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, as “unduly lenient”.

He was also ordered to complete a rehabilitation activity, and put on the Sex Offender’s Register for 10 years.

Now Lawrie faces three years behind bars following the hearing yesterday in London.

Lawrie, an ex-apprentice at Hedge End-based firm My Coaching, denied all seven counts of assault by sexual touching, none of which happened in his coaching role.

When My Coaching, which delivers further education programmes for teenagers, learned of the allegations, Lawrie was sacked.

My Coaching were later praised for Hampshire Police for their actions.

During his trial the young victim was forced to give evidence.

Lawrie was reported to the police when a witness saw him with his hand under the victim’s dress.

The court heard former Cantell School pupil Lawrie attacked the child at least 16 times during six-months of abuse.

After a jury returned a guilty verdict in April, Judge Gary Burrell QC told the court that due to his “complex” learning difficulties Lawrie would struggle in prison.

He added that it would be unjust to send Lawrie directly to custody because he “would be taken advantage of physically and mentally”.

At the sentencing hearing in June, Jon Swain, mitigating, said: “Certain sections of society will say he must be punished and locked up with the key thrown away. But they are not aware or have the knowledge of what his needs are. They know nothing about his life but make up opinions of what he has done.”

The solicitor general, Robert Buckland QC MP, referred his sentence to the court of appeal.

He said: “Lawrie carried out a campaign of sexual assault against a young girl, and I hope that she will take some comfort from the increased sentence today. Lawrie continues to pose a threat to other children, and it is therefore important that he serves an immediate custodial sentence.”