Jailed football coach Barry Bennell may face further abuse charges

  • Police get go-ahead to put together a case for CPS
  • Trial judge questioned merits of more criminal proceedings

Barry Bennell, the former football coach who is serving a 30-year prison sentence as an “industrial-scale child molester”, is facing the possibility of more criminal proceedings for the sexual abuse of players from the junior set-ups of Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.

Detectives investigating Bennell’s crimes are putting together a case for the Crown Prosecution Service with a view to imposing charges relating to some of the alleged victims who are still waiting to hear whether their complaints will go to court. As of January, 86 cases were outstanding, with at least 97 people – though possibly more now – reporting Bennell on the back of the interview Andy Woodward, the former Crewe footballer, gave to the Guardian in November 2016, detailing the years of abuse he suffered in the club’s youth system.

Bennell, 64, was convicted in February of 50 offences of raping and molesting 12 boys, aged eight to 14, from 1979 to 1990, and told that he would have to serve 15 years before being eligible for parole. The judge, Clement Goldstone, branded him “sheer evil” and the “devil incarnate” after a five-week trial at Liverpool crown court heard he had left a “trail of psychological destruction” in the lives of his victims.

Goldstone also said that Bennell, who was in remission from cancer and needed to be fed via a tube, “may well die in prison” and appeared to question the merits of more criminal proceedings to deal with the outstanding cases. “I would invite the police and the Crown Prosecution Service and the complainants themselves to consider carefully whether there exists at this time a continuing public interest, as opposed to the complainants’ private interest, in bringing any further prosecutions before the court,” he said.

However, it is now understood that top-level discussions involving the director of public prosecutions have concluded that some of allegations, specifically the rape of minors, are too serious not to warrant criminal action just because the alleged offender is serving a lengthy sentence. As such, the police are pressing ahead with their investigations and the CPS will be asked in the coming months, potentially going into 2019, to consider whether there is enough evidence to issue charges.

As the Guardian reported at the time, that still leaves dozens of Bennell’s alleged victims having to face up to the fact they will never get the opportunity for their own justice, with the strong probability that the relevant people will be informed that no further action is being taken relating to their cases.

Bennell, who has served two other prison sentences in England and one in the US, has been described as one of the more prolific paedophiles in English criminal history, with the prosecution at his latest trial branding him an “industrial-scale child molester”. However, the court system and legal process does not appear to have an adequate way of dealing with the sheer number of alleged victims. The next court proceedings, if approved by the CPS, may involve nine complainants.

Woodward’s decision to waive his anonymity and go public with his story set in motion what the Football Association chairman, Greg Clarke, has described as the biggest crisis in the history of the sport. More than 2,800 incidents have been reported to the police, according to the last available police figures, going back to March, with 300 suspects named, 849 alleged victims and a number of other convictions and prison sentences.

An independent inquiry, led by Clive Sheldon QC and commissioned by the FA, is due to published in October, investigating the shortcomings that allowed the abuse scandal to occur and focusing specifically on the period from 1970 to 2005. Bennell had seven years as a coach and talent-spotter for City before leaving to take charge of Crewe’s youth team and both clubs have been accused of ignoring warnings about a man who was known as “the star maker” because of his ability to find talented young players. City have commissioned their own independent inquiry to investigate what went wrong behind the scenes but Crewe have attracted widespread criticism after announcing in March they were going back on their promise to do the same.

Dario Gradi, the club’s director of football and formerly their long-serving manager, was suspended by the FA in December 2016 and the chairman, John Bowler, who joined the board in 1979, has faced calls for his resignation.