Police Scotland launch investigation into football child abuse

Allegations of historical child abuse in football have been received by Police Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Allegations of historical child abuse in football have been received by Police Scotland. Picture: Contributed

Police Scotland has received allegations of historical child abuse in football.

The force yesterday became the latest in the UK to confirm it is looking into reports, following claims made by former players in England.

A UK hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in the wake of the claims has received more than 250 reports since launching less than a week ago.

A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm we have received reports in connection with non-recent child abuse within football.

“We are working with both Operation Hydrant and the NSPCC to ensure there is a 
co-ordinated UK police response. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, Police Scotland public protection, said: “We will continue to work with partners, including the National Police Chiefs Council through Operation Hydrant, the Scottish Football Association and the NSPCC to ensure a co-ordinated police response is in place and that we maintain an accurate picture of child abuse investigations.

“Speaking out about any form of child abuse is incredibly difficult and disclosures are often made many years after an incident took place.

“Police Scotland will listen to any such disclosure, regardless of the passage of time, and will investigate as well as work with partner organisations who have access to advocacy and support during the ­process of disclosure and investigation.”

Last night the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that former football coach Barry Bennell, 62, has been charged with child sex offences.

He is accused of eight offences of sexual assault against a boy under the age of 14.

On 27 September, the CPS received a file of evidence from Cheshire Police relating to allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse involving Bennell.

The offences are alleged to have been committed between 1981 and 1985.

A spokesman for the CPS said: “The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against Mr Bennell will now begin and that he has a right to a fair trial.

“It is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.”

Bennell is due to appear at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court on 14 December.

The Scottish Government was also yesterday urged by a Conservative MSP to launch a “focused investigation” into abuse of children in sports clubs.

Rachael Hamilton said there have been pleas for the SNP administration to launch a wider inquiry covering areas such as sport, as the sector is not included in the current ­historical child abuse inquiry.

Meanwhile, former darts world champion Eric Bristow has been dropped as a TV pundit and from a scheduled appearance in front of fans at Newcastle United’s football ground after making controversial remarks about the abuse scandal.

He was used on a freelance basis as a pundit and occasional commentator by Sky, but the broadcaster said it will not use him in the future.

Bristow, 59, wrote on Twitter: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when i was a kid as i got older i would have went back and sorted that poof out.”

He added: “Dart players tough guys footballers wimps”

Steve Walters, one of the ex-players to have spoken out about his abuse at the hands of convicted paedophile and former Crewe coach Barry Bennell, responded on Twitter: “Disgusted with Eric Bristows remarks tonight #stoneagementality.”

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