Bennell charged with child abuse
Former coach Barry Bennell, who is at the centre of a scandal rocking English football, was on Tuesday charged with eight counts of child abuse, prosecutors said.
Bennell, who has already served three jail terms for previous child sex offences, has faced a slew of new allegations by at least 20 former footballers spanning three decades beginning in the 1970s when he was working for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City. “Following a review of the evidence, in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, Mr Bennell, 62, has today been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14,” said a statement from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Bennell, who it was revealed on Monday had to be hospitalised when he was found unconscious in a hotel near London, will appear in court on December 14.
The latest charges stem from Cheshire Police but six other police forces are investigating accusations made against Bennell in a scandal Football Association Chairman Greg Clarke has called “the greatest crisis” in English football he could recall.
Former Newcastle player Derek Bell, who waived his anonymity to the Guardian, claimed he was subjected to “horrendous” sexual abuse at his local boys football club in the 1970s. “It was pure, unbelievable heartache. Thinking my mam and dad were next door and he was performing these sexual acts. He had groomed us for a couple of years and he thought it was normal,” Bell said. “Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn’t normal, but I was so scared to speak and come out and say it wasn’t right.”
Former Northern Ireland international Mark Williams spoke out, with Sky News revealing he had waived his anonymity to describe his torment. “My life has been affected irreversibly both personally and professionally and it has been soul-destroying to carry this burden for 30 years,” he said.
Police Scotland have also confirmed they have launched a probe following abuse allegations north of the border.
The FA has also launched its own internal review appointing leading lawyer Kate Gallafent, an expert in child protection, to head it up. The British Government announced on Tuesday they will bring the police and the FA together for a meeting on the developing scandal.
Clarke took over as FA chairman in August and has already had to deal with the removal of Sam Allardyce as England coach over comments he made in a newspaper sting and the ‘poppygate’ row with FIFA.
He told Sky News it was time to finally deal with the issues after they had been ignored. “It’s certainly the biggest (crisis) I can remember,” said Clarke. “I think the moral consequences of failing to deal with some of these issues in the past we must get to the bottom of.”
Clarke doesn’t know if the FA at the time deliberately turned a blind eye to the goings on although a reporter who made a documentary about sex abuse in football for Channel Four in 1997 has claimed there is a FA report from 2005 detailing 250 victims and spread over a number of clubs.
“I don’t know if there was a cover-up or not, I really don’t know,” said Clarke.
Clarke told the BBC the FA review would not seek to speak to alleged victims, in agreement with the police, nor would he confer with his predecessors as chairman.
Meanwhile, a newspaper report on Tuesday claimed Chelsea made a secret payment to a former youth team player who accused a talent scout, the late Eddie Heath, of sexually assaulting him during the 1970s. An undisclosed sum was given to the unnamed former player on the condition the alleged abuse would not be made public, The Telegraph reported, citing a source.
The player went to the club around three years ago and has also spoken to the Metropolitan Police, the newspaper added.
Ahead of the report being published Chelsea announced they have retained an external law firm to carry out an investigation concerning an individual employed by the club in the 1970s, who is now dead.
“The club has contacted the FA to ensure that all possible assistance is provided as part of their wider investigation,” a Chelsea statement read. — AFP