Football Coach Bob Higgins Guilty of Abusing Young Players

Author:
Peter Garsden
Solicitor, Head of Abuse Claims
Date:
24/05/2019

A former youth football coach has been convicted of indecently assaulting 24 boys between 1971 and 1996. Bob Higgins was found guilty of 45 counts of indecent assault against teenage boys while coaching at Southampton FC and Peterborough United.

Allegations against Higgins emerged after an ex-footballer spoke about his experiences of being sexually abused by ex-Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme. The NSPCC subsequently set up a hotline for victims of child sex abuse in sport, and many callers gave Higgins’ name.

The Jury at Bournemouth Crown Court heard how Higgins was idolised by trainees and seen as a father figure and mentor. Victims told the Court they were abused during post-exercise soapy massages, in his car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with the boys on his sofa.

Senior investigation officer Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown described Higgins as a “predatory paedophile”. “He thrived on controlling and manipulating his victims and knowing that he held the career prospects of many young men in his hands,” he commented. “He exploited that position in the most disgraceful way.”

DCI Brown went on to praise the bravery and patience of the victims, as many had not been able to speak about “these horrendous experiences for most of their lives”. “I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse, no matter how long ago it happened, to come forward,” he added.

Solicitor Peter Garsden, the Head of Simpson Millar’s Abuse Claims department said, “The conviction of the predatory paedophile Bob Higgins yesterday for 45 counts of indecent assault against teenage boys who were in his care as a football coach at Southampton and Peterborough United, will come as a most welcome relief for his many brave victims. He clearly took advantage of his position of power as a coach to groom, influence, and abuse boys who were hoping for a promising football career.

“The psychological damage which the abuse causes to victims of abuse, particularly where the abuser is in a position of trust and respect cannot be underestimated. Undoubtedly, the victims will have suffered immeasurably over the many years the abuse was kept a secret and in the lead up to this most high profile trial when Higgins denied his guilt and forced the complainants to give evidence in public.

“The victims of abuse are to be congratulated for the bravery they showed in coming forward and speaking their truth, leading ultimately to their accounts being accepted and guilty verdicts from the jury.

They should all now consider their legal rights to pursue the football clubs at civil law, so that they can obtain much deserved compensation and apologies from the employers of Higgins who allowed abuse to take place whilst he was employed by them. His actions should clearly have been discovered and stopped before the abuse became so widespread.

There should also be a public inquiry to establish how the abuse was allowed to go undetected at these football clubs for so many years. The Football Association must stand behind the victims of abuse and support their attempts to obtain justice.”

An independent review into child sexual abuse in football is currently taking place and will look into what the Football Association and clubs knew about Higgins.

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