Child Abuse in Swimming

Child Abuse in Swimming

Following the allegations of abuse in British football, it is expected that other sports, such as swimming will soon be uncovering dark secrets related to past abuse.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain in December 2016, Olympian and gold medal winner, Dame Kelly Holmes said she expected victims from other sports to soon step forward. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood revealed it was aware of anecdotal evidence that child abuse had been an issue in swimming and had not been dealt with properly in the past.

For example, the events surrounding the prosecution of Paul Hickson, a former Olympic swimming coach, triggered the NSPCC study ‘In at the Deep End’ (Myers and Barret, 2002). It looked at 78 cases of alleged child abuse made to the Amateur Swimming Association over a four-year period and found that there was a ‘significant minority of children and young people suffering sexual, emotional and verbal abuse at the hands of those in respected and powerful positions within the sport’, and that in the case of child sexual abuse, there can be a process of grooming by coaches who manipulate the relationship developed over a period of years.

In addition to Paul Hickson, former Olympic swimming coach Matthew Pedrazzini, was jailed for 15 months, for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 15 year old female pupil. He abused the girl by using his position as chief swimming coach at Birmingham City Council. Another former swimming coach, Mike Drew, was also convicted and sentenced to 8 years imprisonment after admitting to 10 counts of indecent assault on adolescents.

If you have been a victim of abuse (or your child has) whilst participating in swimming as a child, the effects on your adult life can be devastating and long lasting. Many victims of abuse struggle to hold down jobs and maintain healthy relationships, and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and/or depression. Our sensitive, experienced team of abuse and personal injury lawyers are trained in advising and representing victims of sexual abuse in bringing compensation claims. By instructing us, you can be confident that you will be given a voice and a chance to bring those who failed to protect you from being abused in your swimming club, to justice.

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How do I prove my swimming club failed to protect me from sexual abuse as a child?

If you were the victim of abuse whilst participating in swimming 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 swimming 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.

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 swimming 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 swimming 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 swimming 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 Law 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 swimming 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 swimming club, please call our office on 0333 123 9099 or email  to make an appointment with one of our team.

  • Malcolm Underhill
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  • Simon Pimlott
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  • Rachel Green
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