Child Abuse in Gymnastics

Child Abuse in Gymnastics

The sport of gymnastics is no stranger to sexual abuse.  In 2012, 66-year-old Bob Bellew was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, for sexually abusing seven girls over a four-year period.  And in July 2016 horrified parents heard how the coach at a community gymnastics club had groomed and sexually abused eight victims, one as young as four, over a period of two years.

In the summer of 2020 elite athletes, including Olympic medallists, talked about their personal experiences in training, referring to a culture of fear in gymnastics and a culture of abuse. We have talked to gymnasts at various levels, which suggests abuse in gymnastics has been widespread for many years, with complaints ignored.

Contact our gymnastics abuse solicitors today

If you or your child suffered abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, bullying, body shaming or discrimination at a gymnastics club, we are here to help.

We are currently acting on behalf of those who have suffered at the hands of gymnastics coaches. If you would like advice, with no obligation on your rights and what action you can take to be heard, please do contact our no win, no fee child abuse compensation solicitors, for advice on how to be heard and how to pursue a compensation claim for abuse.

How many victims of gymnastics abuse?

It is likely that there are many more victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse in gymnastics, which has long been recognised as one of the toughest and most competitive of sports.  Those who go on to be champions start at an extremely young age, leaving them extra vulnerable to sexual predators who may become gymnastic coaches or teachers to gain access to their victims.

The child abuse lawyers at IBB Solicitors are dedicated to helping victims of abuse received in sports clubs to obtain compensation for those who failed to protect them.  We are nationally recognised as experts in child abuse claims and have a strong record in getting justice for our clients.

If you were the victim of abuse whilst participating in gymnastics run by a club or other organisation, you need to show, on the balance of probabilities, that your abuser abused you.

Although it is frequently the case that there is no evidence of the abuse other than the survivor’s account of the assaults, you can still win your claim for compensation. This is because you do not have to prove 100% that the assaults took place: you only have to show that it is more likely than not, that you were the victim of assaults.

Paedophiles often move from club to club, quickly fleeing when suspicions surrounding their unusual behaviour start to emerge.  Then they turn up at another institution where they have easy access to children.  If your gymnastics club failed to perform CRB checks or obtain references from previous employers that could have alerted them to the fact their new recruit could not be trusted around children, then they could be found liable for negligence.

The behaviour of gymnastics coaches may become normalised over a period of time, with both gymnasts and their parents afraid to speak, for fear that their child may not receive the attention to enable them to become a success.

Position of Trust

Gymnastics coaches are, without doubt, individuals who are in a position of trust.

Although the law makes it clear that an individual commits an offence if they, holding a position of trust, engage in sexual relationships with a child, the law, as at the summer of 2020 does not apply to sports coaches. Therefore, sports coaches can have sexual relationships with 16 and 17-year-olds, under their control, without committing a criminal offence.

This is clearly wrong and therefore, we support Tracy Crouch MP for Chatham and Aylesford, who introduced a Bill into Parliament to amend existing law, to specifically include “sports coach” as a position of trust for the purposes of child sex offences. Such an amendment will mean that sports coaches who engage in intimate relations with their child prodigies, will be guilty of a criminal offence.

Gymnastic coaches committing sexual assault

In 2012 Bob Bellow was given a two-year custodial sentence for sexually abusing seven girls over a four year period. In another case a gymnastics coach was convicted of sexually assaulting eight girls, one as young as four years of age, over a period of two years.

In 2017 Ryan McKee, a former Commonwealth games gymnast was found guilty of sexual offences against schoolgirls.  He engaged in sexual behaviour and encouraged the girls to send him indecent images.

In America the former gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over a period of 2 decades.

In the summer of 2020 we saw many athletes speak openly about the physical, emotional and verbal abuse they received at the hands of gymnastics coaches. The allegations from all levels of the sport has resulted in an independent Review being set up, to investigate complaints. This is long overdue, with complaints going back over some years. There is more information on the history of complaints in 2020.

The allegations extend to rhythmic gymnastics.

Complaints of bullying and body shaming

In July 2020 a number of elite gymnasts spoke out about an “environment of fear and mental abuse”. British Olympians Becky and Ellie Downie talked of “mentally and emotionally abusive” behaviour of sports coaches which they did not realise was wrong at the time, because they were children. Ellie Downie also spoke about being made to feel ashamed of her weight. She said she knew of others who had experienced similar comments in relation to their weight, with girls being seen to “descend into eating disorders and mental health problems”.

Both Louis Smith and fellow Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler spoke of their experiences and, in the former case, a culture of fear. Others have similarly come forward, including Nile Wilson, Olympic bronze medallist at the Rio games in 2016. He experienced “a massive element of control”, where he said athletes were “made to feel fear, or scared of speaking out”. He described there being a culture of abuse in gymnastics.

It is not just the most successful athletes who have suffered such experiences. We know from our conversations with gymnasts, who aspired to the Olympic dream, that they were similarly abused and had their complaints ignored.

Roxanne Jennison, who trained at the South Durham Gymnastics Club says she was made to feel ashamed of her weight. She said she was made to feel that she was “fat” and recalls starving herself.

Independent Review

Following a raft of complaints in the summer of 2020, across all levels of gymnastics, UK Sport and Sport England announced an independent Review into allegations about mistreatment within the sport of gymnastics.

The independent Review is to be undertaken by Anne Whyte QC, a highly respected and experienced barrister with an extensive record of acting in complex criminal and civil litigation. 

The period under review is from August 2008 until August 2020.

The outcome of the Review is to determine whether

  1. gymnasts’ wellbeing and welfare is (and has been) at the centre of the culture of British Gymnastics;
  2. safeguarding concerns and complaints have been dealt with appropriately in the sport of gymnastics and if not, why not; and,
  3. gymnasts, or their parents, carers or guardians, have felt unable to raise complaints with appropriate authorities and if so, why.

Both UK Sport and Sport England have promised to consider carefully the recommendations made in the review and thereafter determine the manner in which any recommendations to be taken forward will be implemented by British Gymnastics.

How do I make a claim?

The first step is to instruct an experienced solicitor, who specialises in child abuse work and has experience of pursuing gymnastics abuse compensation, who you feel you can trust and develop a rapport with. 

What our Clients say about us

“My experience with IBB solicitors was fantastic, my case was a very sensitive one dating back to my childhood but was dealt with in a way that I could only have wished for”.

“Precise information to me on time and at all times. Really felt they were getting the best result for me”.

“Malcolm Underhill-professional, knowledgeable, and sensitive to my needs during this distressing case. A joy to work with.”

“My experience with IBB Solicitors was excellent from the first phone call right until the end. They don’t give up. They fight all the way to get you justice. Malcolm Underhill took my case and ran with it…”

"We will be forever grateful for your kind and sensitive handling of (the) case and I will, of course, have no hesitation in recommending you and IBB to any other unfortunate individual
should we come across them."

“I would recommend IBB Solicitors as they were very clear from the beginning as to the process, timescale and commitment required to obtain a positive outcome. They were also instrumental in providing the platform for me to work through the experiences I had been through by putting me in touch with the right professional persons”

(Malcolm Underhill) “always very considerate, supportive and encouraging from the outset and always had a positive opinion that I could work through this and come out with a more positive mind frame. I truly believe Malcolm had as much interest in my personal well-being as he did in obtaining the compensation fee. Without Malcolm’s consistent support and guidance to me and my parents, I am sure I would not be in the positive position I find myself in today”.

“My experience with IBB solicitors was fantastic, my case was a very sensitive one dating back to my childhood but was dealt with in a way that I could only have wished for”.

IBB solicitors are recommended because of providing “concise and precise information to me on time and at all times. Really felt they were getting the best result for me”.

(Malcolm Underhill) - “professional, knowledgeable and sensitive to my needs during this distressing case. A joy to work with”.

(Malcolm Underhill) - “polite, understanding, thoughtful at all times. Proved to be on my side very successfully…a person I would wish fighting on my side……….honourable and worth my trust”

“I am very glad I chose IBB Law as I had a pleasant experience and found the staff to be informative throughout my claim.”

“A truth worthy company; overall I had a good experience. I am very grateful for the help I have received. I would recommend to anyone who is unsure about which company to go with, who may not have knowledge on what they are entitled to.”

“Malcolm Underhill, he did a fantastic job on advising with decisions and overall a pleasant person to speak to. I would have a response to emails and my questions were answered. As someone who did not know much about seeking a solicitor, I am very happy with the outcome. Malcolm worked hard on my case and the outcome was better than I had expected. I was explained anything I did not understand and advised where needed.”

“Professional from the start, gave 100% to our case”.

“I wasn’t just a number to IBB Law, they were truly committed to getting justice for me”

“Malcolm Underhill was all about getting justice, working after hours to call me when it was suitable for me to be called in the evening. Very passionate on getting justice, spoke in a way we could understand, not law jargon.”

Is there a time limit on making claims for sexual abuse that occurred at a gymnastics club?

There are generally no time limits for prosecuting abusers; however, there are time limits imposed for making a compensation claim. Usually, victims have three years from the time the abuse took place, or from the time of their 18th birthday, to bring a civil claim for compensation.  

However, due to the impact of sexual abuse on survivors, these times limits are not always strictly applied.  The court has the discretion to extend the time for bringing a claim, meaning compensation claims for historic abuse which occurred in gymnastics clubs can be heard many years down the track.    Nevertheless, time is not automatically extended and thus it is important to bring a claim as soon as possible, to improve your chances of making a successful claim.

What is the process of making a claim?

Our personal injury team will arrange an initial consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case.  We will refrain from asking any specific details about the abuse and will only ask when we have earned your trust and you are ready.

We will then recommend you report allegations of the abuse to the authorities as this will improve the prospects of a successful claim.

Once we have carried out inquiries and the evidence is gathered, we will then contact the gymnastics club in question, on your behalf, notifying them that you are claiming compensation for abuse.  They can either choose to accept the allegations and settle the claim or defend them.  If the latter occurs, we are likely to recommend court proceedings

We will support you in getting medical reports detailing the mental and physical effects of abuse.  We will also advise you on what you can claim for and the likely level of compensation.

How long with the process take?

Claims for historic abuse can take a couple of years, especially if there is a going to be a criminal case.  Our child abuse lawyers will support you through the process.  We care deeply about our clients and we commit to you and your case.

Will I have to go to court?

We understand the trauma attending court can cause the victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, especially if you have never spoken about the incident until now.  However, our vast experience and skill in alternative dispute resolution procedures such as settlement meetings with the lawyers working for those legally responsible for the abuse means that the vast majority of the claims we bring are settled long before they get to court.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

At IBB Solicitors we provide ‘conditional fee arrangements’, otherwise known as ‘no win, no fee’.  This means that if your claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay any legal fees to our solicitors.

Because we are shouldering the risk of your claim, you can therefore feel confident that we believe it has a reasonable chance of success.

You can further protect yourself by taking out After the Event insurance to cover the other side’s costs if the court orders that you must pay them.  This is something that we can organise for you.

By instructing IBB Solicitors to manage your compensation claim for abuse occurring whilst you participated in gymnastics as a child (or when your child participated), you can be confident that you have the best possible chance of success.  We will expertly guide you through the process, providing you and your family with support.

If early settlement is not possible, you can be assured that we will robustly fight your claim, protecting your interests and obtaining the compensation you deserve.

We are committed and passionate about supporting victims and getting justice for them.  Every child has the right to participate in extra-circular activities without the risk of harm coming to them.  By bringing a claim for compensation, you are not only empowering yourself, but ensuring those whose negligent acts and/or omissions failed to protect you are held to account. 

 

If you would like further information on making a compensation claim for child abuse which occurred in a gymnastics club, please call our office on 0333 323 1637 to make an appointment with one of our team.

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How do I make a claim?

The first step is to instruct an experienced solicitor, who specialises in child abuse work, who you feel you can trust and develop a rapport with.

Is there a time limit on making claims for sexual abuse that occurred at a gymnastics club?

There are generally no time limits for prosecuting abusers; however, there are time limits imposed for making a compensation claim. Usually, victims have three years from the time the abuse took place, or from the time of their 18th birthday, to bring a civil claim for compensation.

However, due to the impact of sexual abuse on survivors, these times limits are not always strictly applied. The court has the discretion to extend the time for bringing a claim, meaning compensation claims for historic abuse which occurred in gymnastics clubs can be heard many years down the track. Nevertheless, time is not automatically extended and thus it is important to bring a claim as soon as possible, to improve your chances of making a successful claim.

What is the process of making a claim?

Our personal injury team will arrange an initial consultation to discuss the circumstances of your case.  We will refrain from asking any specific details about the abuse and will only ask when we have earned your trust and you are ready. We will then recommend you report allegations of the abuse to the authorities as this will improve the prospects of a successful claim.

Once we have carried out inquiries and the evidence is gathered, we will then contact the gymnastics club in question, on your behalf, notifying them that you are claiming compensation for abuse. They can either choose to accept the allegations and settle the claim or defend them. If the latter occurs, we are likely to recommend court proceedings

We will support you in getting medical reports detailing the mental and physical effects of abuse.  We will also advise you on what you can claim for and the likely level of compensation.

What our clients say about us

“My experience with IBB solicitors was fantastic, my case was a very sensitive one dating back to my childhood but was dealt with in a way that I could only have wished for”.

“Precise information to me on time and at all times. Really felt they were getting the best result for me”.

“Malcolm Underhill-professional, knowledgeable, and sensitive to my needs during this distressing case. A joy to work with.”

“My experience with IBB Solicitors was excellent from the first phone call right until the end. They don’t give up. They fight all the way to get you justice. Malcolm Underhill took my case and ran with it…”

"We will be forever grateful for your kind and sensitive handling of (the) case and I will, of course, have no hesitation in recommending you and IBB to any other unfortunate individual
should we come across them."

“I would recommend IBB Solicitors as they were very clear from the beginning as to the process, timescale and commitment required to obtain a positive outcome. They were also instrumental in providing the platform for me to work through the experiences I had been through by putting me in touch with the right professional persons”

(Malcolm Underhill) “always very considerate, supportive and encouraging from the outset and always had a positive opinion that I could work through this and come out with a more positive mind frame. I truly believe Malcolm had as much interest in my personal well-being as he did in obtaining the compensation fee. Without Malcolm’s consistent support and guidance to me and my parents, I am sure I would not be in the positive position I find myself in today”.

“My experience with IBB solicitors was fantastic, my case was a very sensitive one dating back to my childhood but was dealt with in a way that I could only have wished for”.

IBB solicitors are recommended because of providing “concise and precise information to me on time and at all times. Really felt they were getting the best result for me”.

(Malcolm Underhill) - “professional, knowledgeable and sensitive to my needs during this distressing case. A joy to work with”.

(Malcolm Underhill) - “polite, understanding, thoughtful at all times. Proved to be on my side very successfully…a person I would wish fighting on my side……….honourable and worth my trust”

“I am very glad I chose IBB Law as I had a pleasant experience and found the staff to be informative throughout my claim.”

“A truth worthy company; overall I had a good experience. I am very grateful for the help I have received. I would recommend to anyone who is unsure about which company to go with, who may not have knowledge on what they are entitled to.”

“Malcolm Underhill, he did a fantastic job on advising with decisions and overall a pleasant person to speak to. I would have a response to emails and my questions were answered. As someone who did not know much about seeking a solicitor, I am very happy with the outcome. Malcolm worked hard on my case and the outcome was better than I had expected. I was explained anything I did not understand and advised where needed.”

“Professional from the start, gave 100% to our case”.

“I wasn’t just a number to IBB Law, they were truly committed to getting justice for me”

“Malcolm Underhill was all about getting justice, working after hours to call me when it was suitable for me to be called in the evening. Very passionate on getting justice, spoke in a way we could understand, not law jargon.”

How long with the process take?

Claims for historic abuse can take a couple of years, especially if there is a going to be a criminal case.  Our child abuse lawyers will support you through the process.  We care deeply about our clients and we commit to you and your case.

Will I have to go to court?

We understand the trauma attending court can cause the victim of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, especially if you have never spoken about the incident until now.  However, our vast experience and skill in alternative dispute resolution procedures such as settlement meetings with the lawyers working for those legally responsible for the abuse means that the vast majority of the claims we bring are settled long before they get to court.

How much will it cost to make a claim?

At IBB Claims we provide ‘conditional fee arrangements’, otherwise known as ‘no win, no fee’. This means that if your claim is unsuccessful, you will not have to pay any legal fees to our solicitors.

Because we are shouldering the risk of your claim, you can therefore feel confident that we believe it has a reasonable chance of success.

You can further protect yourself by taking out After the Event insurance to cover the other side’s costs if the court orders that you must pay them.  This is something that we can organise for you.

By instructing IBB Claims to manage your compensation claim for abuse occurring whilst you participated in gymnastics as a child (or when your child participated), you can be confident that you have the best possible chance of success.  We will expertly guide you through the process, providing you and your family with support.

If early settlement is not possible, you can be assured that we will robustly fight your claim, protecting your interests and obtaining the compensation you deserve. We are committed and passionate about supporting victims and getting justice for them.  Every child has the right to participate in extra-circular activities without the risk of harm coming to them. By bringing a claim for compensation, you are not only empowering yourself, but ensuring those whose negligent acts and/or omissions failed to protect you are held to account.

Contact our experienced and compassionate abuse experts today

If you would like further information on making a compensation claim for child abuse which occurred in a gymnastics club, please call our office on 0333 123 9099 or enquiries@ibbclaims.co.uk to make an appointment with one of our team.

 

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