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.

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 Claims 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.

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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.

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 to make an appointment with one of our team.


  • Malcolm Underhill
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  • Simon Pimlott
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  • Jacqueline Almond
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  • Seema Bagha
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