Bennell docudrama a ‘painful reminder of justice not fully done’ for abuse survivors

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Simpson Millar successfully pursued claim against Crewe Alexandra FC

A feature-length factual drama that will shine a light on the horrific abuse experienced by young footballers at the hands of former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell will serve as a ‘painful reminder of justice not fully done’ for many survivors, leading abuse law experts have said.

Floodlights, which will air tonight (May 17th, 2022) on BBC2, documents the brave decision of Andy Woodward to speak up about the sexual abuse he experienced while being coached by paedophile Barry Bennell.

Speaking publicly about his ordeal in November 2016, the former Bury FC and Sheffield Utd player’s testimony encouraged hundreds more men to come forward about the abuse they had sustained in similar circumstances.

Around 100 victims are believed to have since come forward with allegations specifically against Bennell, a former Manchester City scout, who was also a former coach at Crewe Alexandra, and Stoke City football clubs.

He was later found guilty of dozens of charges of historical child sexual abuse, and in October 2020 he was given an extended jail sentence for additional offences.

While the extended sentence means Bennell will not be released from prison until he is in his 80s, lawyers who have acted on behalf of a number of his alleged victims to secure compensation for their suffering, said his punishment doesn’t reflect the ‘true extent’ of his crimes.

Liam Goggin from Simpson Millar’s specialist abuse law team said: “This docudrama will I hope shine a light on the extent of the abuse that took place within the footballing community and hopefully will provide many survivors with the confidence to speak up for the first time about their suffering. That’s important.

“However, while Bennell has been found guilty of a large number of child sexual abuse offences, we know that there are more cases which have been reported but have not led to a criminal conviction.

“For those individuals, Floodlights will sadly act as a painful reminder of justice not fully done.”

Liam explains that the police are not able to take all cases forwards and generally concentrate their resources on the cases that are evidentially the strongest to ensure the best chance of a conviction.

However, Liam added that it was important for others who had suffered abuse by Bennell to know that they could still pursue a civil claim. He said: “While a criminal conviction may not always be possible, it’s important to note that those who have suffered as a result of his deplorable behaviour can still bring a claim for compensation.

“For many of our clients bringing a claim for compensation does at least provide some comfort, and some sense that justice has been done.

“We strongly urge anybody who feels they may have been a victim of Bennell, or any other abuser, to seek legal advice. An abuse law expert can advise you on your rights, and your options, and will always be there to provide support in complete confidence.”

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