A PROFESSIONAL cricketer who embarked on a ‘moral crusade’ to ‘blacken the name’ of his ex-partner after their relationship ended has avoided jail.

Grant Hodnett, of Hill Top Road in Stockton Heath, was sentenced at Warrington Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to the charge of stalking involving serious alarm or distress.

The court heard how the 38-year-old batsman, who made his first-class debut for Gloucestershire but now stars for Grappenhall Cricket Club, sent derogatory messages about his former girlfriend’s personal life to her family, friends, employers and customers between June and August.

But the South Africa-born sportsman was saved by his ‘previous good character’ and a large collection of positive references.

During the hearing, prosecutor Lucy Fitch-Adams spoke of how on June 22, Hodnett and his then-partner had an argument after he became aware of her adult modelling career, which led to their relationship ending.

Soon after, Hodnett sent an email to the complainant’s father containing 20 erotic photos of his daughter adult modelling. In the email, Hodnett said that he believed the complainant was ‘at risk and needed help’.

The court also heard how Hodnett, who works as a personal trainer and founded GH Nutrition, sent messages to the complainant’s friend in her Alcoholics Anonymous group to ‘cause a rift’.

Over the course of a month, the defendant sent messages to the complainant’s friends calling her a ‘liar and a psychopath’, signed her email address up to alcohol adverts and caused her phone to receive calls from foreign numbers.

He also called the NSPCC and told them that the complainant had performed sex acts in her daughter’s bedroom and that he was scared for the child’s safety.

Warrington Guardian:

The complainant, who is self-employed, was told by her customers that they had started to receive messages from the defendant telling them not to use her as she was a ‘horrible woman’.

She also worked in a charity shop, but was called into the office after her employer was sent a brown envelope containing a photo of her and letter talking about her personal life and the sites that she had done adult modelling on.

Reading from a victim impact statement, Ms Fitch-Adams said: “The complainant is scared about what will happen next as the defendant’s behaviour was escalating further and further.

“The defendant is aware she is a recovering alcoholic and signing her email up for sites has caused a decline in her mental health.

“She believes the defendant is trying to make her have a breakdown and wants his persistent and unwanted behaviour to stop, as it is making her life a misery.”

The court heard that Hodnett has no previous convictions but did receive a caution in June 2015 for harassment.

In defence of his client, Mark Haslam pointed to a vast collection of character references which portray Hodnett as a man of good character, and determined the root of his behaviour to be the breakdown of their relationship.

He said: “The defendant accepts that his conduct was not just inappropriate, but totally unacceptable. It was not for him to go on a moral crusade.

“A number of people have written on behalf of the defendant and we had to draw the line at 25.

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“The activities of the complainant came to the attention of the defendant, and this caused him to have a total breakdown as he felt betrayed.

“He spent three days in custody after his arrest, which was ample time for him to consider his behaviour.”

Mr Haslam also pointed out that the situation was not a ‘one-way street’, and said that in July, the complainant made contact with the defendant to ‘discuss the possibility of a reconciling their relationship’.

He added: “Since his first appearance in court, the defendant has been the target of material sent to parties he is connected with – his cricket club, who have said they will stand by him, and the gym that he works, who have said they will stand by him.

“He does not wish to report this to the police as wants to move forward with life.”

Before sentencing, chair magistrate Alan Davies said to Hodnett: “You came perilously close to custody, but your previous good character has stopped you.

“If you come before this court in the next two years for any reason, take something with you, as you will be going to custody.”

Hodnett was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison suspended for two years and ordered to complete a two-year community order, which includes a building better relationships course, 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 150 hours of unpaid work.

The court also approved a restraining order preventing Hodnett from contacting the defendant and ordered him to pay £335 in court costs.