MPS call for law change over child abuser Hig­gins

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Sport | Football - By Jeremy Wil­son CHIEF SPORTS RE­PORTER

The cam­paign to re­form the dou­ble jeop­ardy law so that sex­ual of­fend­ers such as for­mer Southamp­ton and Peter­bor­ough United coach Bob Hig­gins could po­ten­tially face re­trial for pre­vi­ous al­le­ga­tions has taken a ma­jor step for­ward.

The All-party Par­lia­men­tary Group for adult sur­vivors of child­hood sex­ual abuse, which is chaired by Sarah Cham­pion MP, has for­mally rec­om­mended a change to the law which would in­clude all forms of child sex­ual abuse among those most se­ri­ous crimes that could be re­tried in the event of com­pelling new ev­i­dence.

It fol­lows a cam­paign by the for­mer Southamp­ton foot­baller Dean Rad­ford, who, as an 18-year-old in 1989, came for­ward to al­lege sex­ual abuse by Hig­gins, who was coach­ing school­boys at Southamp­ton.

Five other play­ers al­leged in­de­cent as­sault but Hig­gins pleaded not guilty and was ac­quit­ted in Jan­uary 1992. He then con­tin­ued work­ing in foot­ball – abus­ing teenage boys at Peter­bor­ough when he worked there from 1994-96 – un­til the scan­dal of child sex­ual abuse emerged in 2016 and, as re­vealed last week, 95 peo­ple came for­ward to al­lege abuse by Hig­gins. Of those, 82 were prior to 1989 and nine al­leged abuse at Peter­bor­ough.

The All-party Par­lia­men­tary Group’s re­port out­lines how Hig­gins was then con­victed this year of 45 counts of in­de­cent as­sault in­volv­ing 23 teenage boys over a 25year pe­riod be­tween 1971 and 1996. It states, how­ever, that “the orig­i­nal six com­plainants, were pre­vented from their cases be­ing re­heard be­cause of the dou­ble jeop­ardy law”.

In an in­ter­view last week with The Daily Tele­graph, Rad­ford ex­plained the huge im­por­tance for him of hav­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of Hig­gins face re­trial over al­le­ga­tions he first made more than 30 years ago. “Even though I was elated for ev­ery­one else to see him [Hig­gins] con­victed, my life won’t be the same un­less I get jus­tice,” said Rad­ford.

Both the Hamp­shire Con­stab­u­lary and Crown Pros­e­cu­tion Ser­vice have said that child sex­ual abuse al­le­ga­tions are now treated in a dif­fer­ent way.

The All-party par­lia­men­tary group’s for­mal rec­om­men­da­tion is that the gov­ern­ment should leg­is­late to ex­tend the list of of­fences ex­empt from dou­ble jeop­ardy law to in­clude “all of­fences re­lat­ing to non-pen­e­tra­tive child sex­ual abuse”. At present, dou­ble jeop­ardy ex­emp­tions ap­ply only when there is com­pelling new ev­i­dence in 30 “se­ri­ous” crimes in­clud­ing mur­der, rape and class-a drug of­fences.

The All-party Par­lia­men­tary Group’s re­port specif­i­cally states that the Hig­gins case has “high­lighted the need for re­form”. It says that “sur­vivors do not dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween the sever­ity of dif­fer­ent forms of child sex­ual abuse” and adds that “all forms of child sex­ual abuse can have a dev­as­tat­ing and life­long im­pact on sur­vivors’ lives.”

Con­victed: For­mer Southamp­ton and Peter­bor­ough United youth coach Bob Hig­gins

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