A RIDING instructor is on the run in Thailand from a six-year prison sentence for sexually attacking children during lessons.

Having been released on bail following his arrest, Damien Midgley fled abroad after he was charged with 11 offences of abusing four children under 13. Some of them had been on their first riding lesson with him.

A judge has issued a warrant for his arrest.

A jury at York Crown Court heard some of the abuse occurred when Midgley took children for riding lessons in a wood near the North Yorkshire riding school where he worked and when they were accompanied by other people.

He claimed in police interviews after his arrest that he had not touched any of the children sexually in any way.

But when he had the chance to tell the jury the same thing, he decided not to return to the UK to stand trial.

Instead, he had given his legal team full instructions to conduct the trial in his absence and stayed in Thailand while it went ahead with an empty dock.

His not-guilty pleas meant the children had to go through the ordeal of telling the jury exactly what he had done to them and defence witnesses also gave evidence on Midgley's behalf.

The jury were not told why the dock was empty.

They convicted him on all 11 charges, ten of sexually assaulting a girl under 13 and one of inciting a child under 13 to commit a sexual act, after spending more than a day in retirement.

Recorder Jamie Hill QC sentenced Midgley to six years in jail, put him on the sex offenders' register for life and made him subject to a sexual offences prevention order.

He also issued a bench warrant before the trial began for Midgley's arrest.

Midgley, 37, formerly of Becca Lane, Aberford, Leeds, denied all charges, which were committed at the Newthorpe Equestrian Centre near South Milford over several years.

His riding school no longer operates, and has no connection with any riding school in the South Milford area.