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February 20 2018 – “Why it is all our duty to prioritise child safety” – Daily Telegraph – Paul Hayward – Chief Sports Writer

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/02/19/duty-prioritise-child-safety/

Why it is all our duty to prioritise child safety

Why it is all our duty to prioritise child safety
Gary Cliffe, a victim of Barry Bennell, speaks outside Liverpool Crown Court after the sentencing of his former coach CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES

One of the beauties of sport is that it populates its landscape with young people dreaming of making it into the big time. Among its darkest aspects is the violation of those dreams by predators who see aspiration as a vulnerability they can exploit.

From the depravity of Barry Bennell right down to the spiv who tries to get rich on the back of a child’s talent, young people are in need of protection by families, institutions, vigilant individuals and of course the rule of law, which has caught up with Bennell – jailed at Liverpool Crown Court for 30 years for abusing 12 young footballers between 1979 and 1991.

Those protective structures failed abysmally for a generation of children who were defenceless against Bennell’s brazen and routine sex crimes, which, as the court heard, occurred on an “industrial scale.” As we know from the Jimmy Savile case and others, this level of sexual criminality is not possible unless those with the power to stop it are blinded by the perpetrator or place their own self-interest first.

In this case, parts of the Football Association, Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra – in that period – refused or failed to see Bennell’s interest in scouting and coaching was incidental to his main reason for working in football. His chief purpose was to gain access to children. He played a double game to satisfy his appetites, conning the clubs into thinking he was a talent-spotter par excellence and the children and their families into believing he held the key to a future in the game.

The NSPCC’s statement after sentencing pointed out that Bennell “ruthlessly preyed on the hopes and aspirations of young footballers who believed he held the key to their dreams”.

Procedures are much tighter in football now. Awareness has improved exponentially since the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties. Yet, as the many recent welfare-in-sport scandals have demonstrated, there is still a phase in which young people are vulnerable if they have not attained full adulthood or the power that comes with success.

That stage of life, where children are most open to being exploited, is the one that requires the most careful policing, because sex offenders are drawn to professions in which they have access to, and can exploit the ambitions of, young people. Thus it falls not only to governing bodies but also coaches, parents – all of us, in fact – to recognise the danger signs and intervene, as opposed to merely muttering our concerns.

From Bennell’s perspective, reptilian deceit was effective. One member of City’s staff called him “the star-maker”. Concerns raised by Len Davies at City and Hamilton Smith at Crewe gained no real traction. Now, a further 86 alleged victims have reportedly come forward, which accentuates one of the truly shocking features of this tragedy: the impunity with which Bennell abused children, and the breadth of his crimes, in homes, holiday camps, football clubs and even on the pitch at Maine Road.

The FA have a responsibility to show negligence and complicity have consequences

Only the victims who came forward to testify can know how long the “relief” will last. And relief was certainly the most conspicuous first response. No quest for justice – even one so obviously grounded in fact – guarantees the kind of outcome that exposed Bennell’s sadism and perversion.

The first emotion, one assumes, is one of vindication. The lie has been broken. An expectation now, however, is that thoughts will turn quickly to those who excused Bennell’s paedophilia, looked the other way, or facilitated it in ways that require them to be held to account.

Lord Carlile, one of the country’s leading legal figures, has said Bennell’s behaviour was “brushed under the carpet” by Crewe.

These failures, where they existed, cannot be marked down as unfortunate accidents. The victims are entitled to justice from football as well as the legal system. The FA bear a responsibility in their forthcoming report to show that negligence and complicity have consequences, not least for the FA of that time.

The societal nature of this crime was grimly apparent when a “Cambridge-educated” geophysicist from a “privileged” background, Matthew Falder, was jailed for 32 years at Birmingham Crown Court after admitting 137 offences including blackmail, voyeurism, encouraging child rape and sharing indecent images – on the same day Bennell began his latest prison sentence.

Football is not uniquely blighted by child sex abuse, and its safeguards now are better. But in all cases it needs to think first of child protection, of child welfare, and punish those who have failed in that duty.

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February 16 2018 – “Barry Bennell: Crewe ‘brushed scandal under carpet’ says Lord Carlile” – BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38632026

Barry Bennell: Crewe ‘brushed scandal under carpet’ says Lord Carlile

Barry Bennell: Lord Carlile says football failed to protect youngsters from abuse

The Barry Bennell scandal was “brushed under the carpet” by Crewe Alexandra, according to the eminent barrister who prosecuted the serial paedophile in 1998.

Lord Carlile – one of the country’s top legal experts – told the BBC the club at the centre of the case was guilty of “institutional failure” over their former youth coach.

He also fears young footballers were abused because “this danger was not drawn to the attention of a wider public”.

Bennell, 64, who has already received three prison sentences – in 1995, 1998 and 2015 – has been convicted of 43 further charges of child sex abuse by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court. The jury were told of abuse of 12 boys between 1979 and 1990.

In a statement on Thursday, Crewe said the club “was not aware of any sexual abuse by Bennell” until his arrest in Florida in 1994, and that it did not receive any sexual abuse complaint about him “before or during his employment with the club.”

Crewe also said a police investigation found “no evidence to corroborate that the club was aware of Bennell’s offending”.

Chris Unsworth, Micky Fallon and Steven Walters

Bennell, who worked with a number of clubs across the north west of England, including Manchester City and Stoke City, was jailed for nine years in 1998, pleading guilty to 23 specimen charges at Chester Crown Court.

But the prosecuting barrister at the trial, Alex Carlile QC, who was made a life peer in 1999, has now spoken out for the first time about Crewe’s handling of the case.

“I believe the Crewe board should have addressed this issue, and I’d be very interested to see the board minutes of the time because I feel sure the board would have discussed it in some way, but I have the feeling it was brushed under the carpet,” he said.

“What I am satisfied about is that there should have been further inquiry by any club involved, including Crewe Alexandra. I’m surprised I did not read subsequently that Crewe had carried out an inquiry into what had occurred.”

Speaking to the BBC last year, Carlile said Bennell “seemed to me to be the embodiment of the sort of person you wanted no nearer than a million miles from your children”.

Barry Bennell calling card
Bennell’s relationship with Man City remains unclear, but the BBC has obtained what is believed to be a business card that the coach handed out to young players and their parents, describing himself as a the club’s ‘North-West representative’. The BBC cannot verify the authenticity of the card, but if this is what it appears to be, it may show how Bennell used City’s name to lure some of his victims.

League Two club Crewe have been under intense scrutiny over what was known about Bennell since former player Andy Woodward spoke out in November about the abuse he had suffered while a trainee at the club. Since then, other former players who say they were victims of Bennell have come forward.

A former board member at Crewe, Hamilton Smith, has claimed he had warned the club about Bennell’s relationship with young boys in the late 1980s, but the coach was allowed to stay in his job.

Bennell was eventually sacked in 1992 for reasons that have never been made public. Smith also says he asked the FA to investigate the case in 2001, after Bennell was convicted, but was ignored.

“If any senior people at the club knew more than they let on at the time then they should have been open about it,” said Carlile.

“Football coaches had immense power over young boys who they were training and clubs were in the place of parents and it’s quite clear that they didn’t take that position seriously.”

Andy Woodward says ‘justice has been served’

Crewe director of football Dario Gradi, who was the club’s manager from 1983 to 2007, was suspended by the Football Association in November 2016. During Bennell’s trial in 1998 it was revealed that one of the offences happened at Gradi’s house.

John Bowler, who has been chairman of the club since 1987, continues in his role.

“I’m very surprised about the continuity in the club of a number of people who were present at that time,” said Carlile.

“Dario Gradi was a relevant figure in this case. I’m not making any sort of allegation against Dario Gradi, but he was a relevant figure and I think Crewe ought to come clean about the way in which they dealt with this problem, admitting their shortcomings where there were shortcomings.”

Both Gradi and Bowler have denied any wrongdoing, and say the first they knew about Bennell’s crimes was when he was arrested in 1994.

Gradi has said he would “do everything within my power to assist all investigatory authorities” while Crewe announced in November 2016 the club would hold an independent review into how it dealt with historical child sex abuse allegations.

But Carlile has also spoken about his dismay at the lack of interest in the case at the time of Bennell’s earlier conviction.

“I’m absolutely certain that at the time there was institutional failure, and I’m very disappointed that it now appears as a result of a lack of publicity of that case other boys have been abused, because this danger was not drawn to the attention of a wider public,” he said.

“If someone was prosecuting that case today about serious indecency against young boys, some of whom might have stardom as footballers in front of them, it would’ve had blanket press coverage.

“The follow-through by the media would have been huge, and I suspect more complainants would have come forward as a result.

“I’m absolutely certain that if the media and the sport had taken this on as an issue in 1998, a lot of young people would not have been abused in the years that followed.”

Football child sex abuse scandal one of FA’s biggest crises – Greg Clarke

With hundreds of potential victims coming forward, multiple suspects, and many clubs and police forces across the country now investigating, the FA has begun an internal review into the crisis, headed by barrister Clive Sheldon QC.

“The FA inquiry has spluttered into life,” said Carlile, who spent a decade as the government’s terrorism legislation reviewer, and is leading an independent study into how the Church of England handled child abuse accusations.

“There was a change of leadership within almost days, the explanation has never been entirely clear to me, but I think that Clive Sheldon will be a splendid head of that inquiry.

“What we’re talking about is multiple, repeated, horrific crimes and I think the inquiry will have to have a keen intelligence about the way in which crimes of this kind develop.

“The lessons learnt must include explaining to those who run [sports] clubs to be able to anticipate these events and to take child safeguarding measures that will make it much more difficult for these events to happen.

“It’s a huge crisis for sport, it’s a bigger crisis than doping for athletics. It’s a crisis of confidence. It will diminish Britain’s very considerable success in every sport unfortunately, because parents will be more reluctant to allow their children to take part in sports clubs.

“It is going to provoke real difficulties for sports, but the sports have themselves to blame for this to some extent.”