An inquiry into child sexual abuse in football – described as the biggest scandal in the history of the sport – could be delayed by more than a year to allow for connected criminal trials to take place.
Earlier this year, former Manchester City football coach Barry Bennell was sentenced to 30 years in jail after being found guilty of 50 counts of abuse.
Now it has emerged that Bennell may face further charges involving youngsters from Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, while a number of other trials are due to take place in the coming months.
Clive Sheldon, the QC appointed in December 2016 to oversee the independent inquiry, had originally intended to publish his report in the coming week, having spent the previous 21 months investigating what the Football Association chairman Greg Clarke has described as the biggest scandal in the history of the sport.
One of the reasons for the delay is due to the Crown Prosecution Service considering whether to impose more charges against Bennell, who was described in court as an “industrial-scale child molester”.
As of January, 86 other complainants were trying to press charges against Bennell.
Bennell, now 64, was convicted in February of 50 offences of raping and molesting 12 boys, aged eight to 14, from 1979 to 1990.
Mr Sheldon said: “It is of paramount importance that my work does not in any way compromise any ongoing investigations,” Sheldon writes. “The effect of this has meant that I have not spoken to certain individuals who are involved in ongoing criminal trials or investigations.
“I had previously expected to be able to finalise my review this autumn, following the completion of three major criminal trials this year. However, the retrial of Bob Higgins and the fact that there has not been a charging decision in relation to a large number of further allegations against Barry Bennell has meant that I have needed to review this position.
“I want my review to be as comprehensive as possible. For that reason, I have decided not to complete it until I have had the opportunity to speak to more individuals associated with the retrial of Bob Higgins and the further allegations being made against Barry Bennell.”
How can our personal injury lawyers help?
If you are a victim of sexual abuse in football or in sport, please contact us for help and legal advice.
We have a specialist team led by James Davies, who can provide sensitive care and expert guidance to those who may wish to bring civil claims for compensation as a result of sexual abuse in their past.
The Suffolk law firm, which has offices in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Melton, Hadleigh or Woodbridge, is partnered with the Ipswich based charity Survivors in Transition (SiT). The charity aims to empower both female and male survivors to take control of their lives and cope better with the daily effects the abuse has left them with.
Gotelee are members of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, which enables us to bring together a team of experts, including doctors, counsellors, psychiatrists and specialist barristers.
For more information or assistance on this matter, please call James Davies on 01473 298159 or email James.Davies@Gotelee.co.uk.