Spotlight on Sexual Abuse in Football Clubs in the UK

March 20, 2017

Barry Bennell, the former professional football coach, is facing twenty charges in relation to non-recent sexual abuse as the sexual abuse in football club scandal is at its height. Recent investigations into sexual abuse is uncovering widespread institutional abuse in the sporting world; So far over 248 football clubs are under investigation, in a UK-wide police investigation known as ‘Operation Hydrant’. Operation Hydrant was created in 2014 to oversee the investigation of historic child sexual abuse within institutions. The operation is considering the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse, and investigating how effectively the failings been addressed. It will also identify steps that need to be taken to address any failings identified. Operation Hydrant works closely with The Goddard Inquiry and other operations to uncover institutional failures.

An article in the Guardian published in January reported that Operation Hydrant has so far identified 184 suspects and 526 potential victims, the majority relating to football clubs, but also involving other sports including rugby, gymnastics, tennis, swimming and golf. UK children’s charity, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), received more than 1,700 calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline in its first four weeks of operation.

Former Sheffield United player Andy Woodward told the Guardian he was sexually abused as a youth player. Since then, several footballers have spoken out including Tottenham midfielder Paul Stewart, ex-Manchester City striker David White, and Chelsea footballer Gary Johnson. The Football Association (FA) has launched an investigation into the allegations within football clubs and Chelsea Football Club, Charlton Athletic, Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City have all opened internal investigations into allegations of historical abuse.

Operation Hydrant covers investigations across institutions in the UK, and allegations of sexual abuse have been flooding in since 2014 and it has also sparked many internal investigations across the board. A three-year investigation set up by the BBC found that Jimmy Savile, British TV celebrity who died in 2011 at age 84, had sexually abused 72 victims, many of them children. Almost 300 complaints of sexual misconduct were made to Universities against their staff between 2011 and 2016, according to the Guardian newspaper. Internal investigations were also launched in the church, which included investigation into allegations made against the former Bishop of Chichester.

Defending Sexual Abuse Allegations

Close scrutiny of evidence is a crucial step in the defence strategy, as often evidence in a historical abuse case can fall down on its credibility. The nature of historic sex abuse cases often means there is a shortage of physical or scientific evidence available. Evidence that does not meet the standard can breach human rights law if admitted (the right to a fair trial). A robust and carefully drafted defence statement, drawn up by a highly experienced sexual defence solicitor could be make a huge difference to a case. A skilled sexual abuse defence solicitor and expert in the field will point out inconsistencies or errors in the prosecuting authority’s case and this in itself can be enough to get the case thrown out of court.

Our sexual offences expert, Stuart Sutton, has successfully dealt with many different types of historic sex abuse cases since for over thirty years. Stuart has acted for, amongst others, members of the three largest foster carer organisations, when their members have been accused of sexual (and other) misfeasance against the children in their care and clinicians and medics who have not only had to face criminal charges but also Fitness to Practice (FTP) proceedings brought by their Regulator. Sutton has acted for clients who have been charged with sexual assaults, rape, offences against children, making pornographic images and related crimes.

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/18/police-confirm-500-potential-victims-sex-abuse-football

Tuckers Sexual Offences Solicitors Manchester UK

Tuckers Solicitors is recognised as the UK’s leading criminal law firm and should be the first choice for anyone facing a sexual offences investigation. With ten offices in London, Birmingham and Manchester, our offices are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, ensuring the delivery of immediate expert legal advice and representation. Our award-winning and astute lawyers are always on hand to ensure that those arrested are able to receive practical and timely advice, and are fully prepared for giving evidence in court.

We act for over 15,000 clients a year, from all sections of society. All have one thing in common: they are innocent until proven guilty and our lawyers will do everything within the rules to ensure that their best interests are served. Our lawyers are known for their strategic expertise as well as the outstanding client service they provide, whilst ensuring that high profile cases are kept out of the public eye.

The firm is structured into dedicated teams, led by expert solicitors; the Sexual Offences team being led by Stuart Sutton. Tuckers Solicitors has a first-class in-house advocacy team, consisting of Barristers and Solicitor Higher Court Advocates. For more information please contact our London Office on 0808 164 6795, Manchester Office on 0808 169 5980 or Birmingham Office on 0808 169 5980 or email info@tuckerssolicitors.com.