Barry Bennell, a former football coach who worked at top-level English clubs, including Manchester City and Leeds United, has been found guilty of multiple sex offences against boys he coached in the 1980s.
The 64-year-old, who now goes by the name Richard Jones, has been convicted at Liverpool crown court of 43 charges including indecent assault and serious sexual assault against 11 boys. The victims were all boys he coached as part of the youth systems for Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.
Prosecutors described Bennell as a “predatory and determined paedophile” who had abused the children in his care on an “industrial scale”. His youngest victim was eight years old while the oldest was 15. Bennell was described as having a “power hold” over the boys, some of whom he molested and raped over 100 times.
The court was told how Bennell had created a “children’s paradise” in his home with arcade games machines, a jukebox and exotic pets, including a monkey and puma. He also reportedly won over the boys’ parents, securing permission for the victims to stay over at his home, where he kept bunk beds for up to 12 children at a time.
Bennell, who has previously served three prison sentences for child abuse in the UK and the USA, appeared in court via videolink due to illness. He offered no evidence or witnesses, having told police he was experiencing memory problems due to suffering from cancer. Bennell’s barrister suggested that the complainants were simply “jumping on the bandwagon” and “maliciously making up stories about him”.
However, after 19 hours of deliberation, the jury of five men and six women, on 13 February, found Bennell guilty of 27 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of buggery and two counts of attempted buggery. The jury returned further guilty verdicts on the 14 February to bring the count up to 43. With earlier admissions made by Bennell the final number of counts was 50. He was jailed for 31 years at Liverpool Crown Court on the 19 February 2018 for the offences against boys, aged between 8 and 15 years.
An additional 86 people are understood to have been come forward to say they were abused in the past by Bennell.
Bennell is the latest in a recent string of football coaches and other sports coaches to have been accused of historic sexual abuse. Among the accused are former Newcastle United youth coach George Ormund, who was charged with 29 offences that allegedly took place between 1973 and 1998, including indecent assault and buggery, related to 17 male complainants. Ormund has denied the charges and is due to appear in court in May 2018. Former Southampton Football Club youth coach Bob Higgins has also been charged with 65 counts of indecent assault, alleged to have taken place between 1970 and 1996, against 23 boys all aged under 17. Allegations have also been made about ex-chief scout for Chelsea, Eddie Heath, who died in the early 1980s.
Supporting victims of child abuse
It may be that following Bennell’s conviction, others will have confidence to come forward, knowing they will be listened to, with a sympathetic ear. If you were a victim of child abuse at the hands of a football or other sports coach, or under any other circumstances, IBB Claims’ expert child abuse lawyers can offer the support and guidance you need to pursue justice.
We have extensive experience in pursuing a wide range of child abuse cases, including both recent and historic abuse, and can offer a sensitive and empathetic but practical approach to ensure you receive the best possible representation.