News 2nd December 2016

English football sexual abuse scandal involves over 350 people

England’s National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has said that around 350 people have come forward to report allegations of sexual abuse within football, after former player Andy Woodward’s experience – reported by The Guardian – prompted a flood of similar complaints. “It is important to note that this is an indicative figure only, and that information is still being collated, numbers will, therefore, continue to change”, said National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey. “We are working closely with the Football Association to ensure that the response to this significant and growing number of victims, at all levels of football, is coordinated effectively.”

The NPCC said that the figures had been collated from reports to an National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) helpline and from Operation Hydrant, a coordination hub established in June 2014 to deal with non-recent child abuse investigations. The NSPCC helpline was launched by the England’s Football Association (FA) to deal with such claims. The FA has also instructed Kate Gallafent QC to review any new cases which come to light. The FA’s Child Protection in Sport Unit will also be carrying out an independent audit into The FA’s current practices at the beginning of 2017.

Ex-youth football coach Barry Bennell, a convicted sex offender who was named by several footballers as being behind attacks, has been taken to hospital after being found unconscious at home, reports the BBC. Bennell worked for clubs including Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City. He was given a four-year sentence for sexually abusing a boy during a tour of Florida in 1994 and a nine-year sentence in 1998 for 23 offences against six boys in England. In 2015, he was sentenced for a third time after admitting abusing a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

On 29 November, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that Bennell had been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14. It is understood that he is due to appear at South Cheshire Magistrates Court on 14 December.

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