A SPORTS and massage therapist who sexually assaulted a woman as he was giving her a massage has been jailed for 18 months after admitting a "grave breach of trust".

Kenneth Reece, 60, was giving the 21-year-old woman the luxury treatment at the plush Turkish Baths complex in Harrogate when he ordered her to remove all of the towels she was wearing.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, did as Reece instructed as it was the first time she had experienced such a massage, which had been given to her as a 21st birthday treat by her mother.

But shamed Reece, of Wetherby, took advantage by sexually assaulting the woman as she lay naked on the massage table - telling her to "relax" and saying that he "did not do this for everyone".

The terrified woman, who was now in tears as she realised she had suffered a disgusting assault, managed to flee when Reece left the room and found her mother, who was also at the baths, on October 17 last year.

Reece, who also teaches children kayaking for the Canoe England organisation, attempted to explain his shocking behaviour away as "a moment of madness", but his claims were rejected by Judge Paul Hoffman.

Sentencing Reece, Judge Hoffman said: "I do not accept it was spur of the moment, this was a deliberate targeting. You must be given custody to reflect this.

"If you, as a professional masseur, cannot keep your hands to yourself you shouldn't be in the job. It was a very grave breach of trust."

York Crown Court heard how the father and husband, described as a "family man", had many years of outstanding experience as a massage and sports therapist behind him with no previous convictions.

But Jonathan Carroll, prosecuting, explained how Reece had prepared the woman for her birthday treat by telling her to remove the towels which covered her body.

Normal practice for this type of treatment would involve the participant to be clad almost entirely in towels - however Reece ordered her to be fully naked.

Reece claimed that the woman had mentioned she had recently experienced pain in her left groin - an old running injury - so with her face down on the massage table he began to touch her. It was then that the sexual assault took place.

Simon Reevell, mitigating, read out several statements which paid tribute to Reece's work as a sports therapist and claimed the short, bespectacled figure, who appeared a broken man in the dock, could offer no explanation for his "totally out of character" behaviour.

He said: "There was no planning, this was a moment of madness. It has devastated his life."

Balding Reece, who wept as he was sentenced, will have to remain on the Sex Offender's Register for the rest of his life. He had initially denied the assault, but later changed his plea to guilty.