Wednesday 19 June 2019

Celtic FC voice 'regret and sorrow' for victims of paedophile James McCafferty

Former football coach Jim McCafferty
Former football coach Jim McCafferty

Hilary Duncanson

Celtic Football Club has expressed its "regret and sorrow" to those affected by the actions of paedophile James McCafferty.

McCafferty, a former kitman who was also a youth coach, was last week jailed for more than six years after admitting a string of historical sexual offences against young boys.

The 73-year-old, of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, pleaded guilty to a series of charges related to paedophile activity against 10 victims, which took place over several decades.

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Celtic said it offers its "sincere sympathy" to the young people affected, and their families.

However, a lawyer representing several McCafferty survivors said the statement was not an apology and condemned the timing of its release, 10 days after the court case, as "cynical in the extreme".

In the statement, the football club said: "James McCafferty has pled guilty to offences he committed against young people between 1972 and 1996.

"Celtic Football Club wishes to express its regret and sorrow to those young people.

"McCafferty, who was employed by Celtic Football Club in the mid 1990s, committed these acts many years ago across a number of organisations, and all those who have come forward to report abuse and to give evidence deserve enormous praise for the courage they have shown.

"We offer our sincere sympathy to those young people, their families and all those involved."

The club said that when the allegations emerged in 2016, it encouraged any individuals involved to report all information to the police.

"Celtic Football Club takes all of its responsibilities seriously, stands by its responsibilities and will continue to do so," the statement continued.

"The abuse of children has affected many areas of society, including football clubs, sports clubs, youth organisations, educational institutions and religious bodies across Britain.

"Celtic Football Club strongly believes that children and young people involved in football have the right to protection from all forms of harm and abuse and is committed to ensuring this and to promoting their wellbeing through continued cooperation with our children and young people, parents and carers and the relevant authorities.

"Celtic Football Club was the first club in Scotland to appoint a safeguarding officer, responsible for developing our policies for the protection of young people, and monitoring and reviewing our procedures to ensure they continue to reflect best practice."

Patrick McGuire, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, who represents some abuse survivors, said: "It would be charitable to Celtic to describe this as too little too late.

"There is no apology. There is no acknowledgement of Celtic's failures."

He continued: "I would also describe the timing of this release as cynical in the extreme.

"The conviction and sentencing of McCafferty was over a week ago.

"To put this statement out late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend on the day the Prime Minister resigns and before a potential Treble Treble weekend for the club is appalling."

He added: "Every member of the Celtic board should hang their heads in shame."

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on May 14 that McCafferty abused his position of power and used his intimidating physique to carry out a campaign of "sexual depravity" against budding footballers.

The incidents took place in several locations across Scotland - including team showers, hotel rooms and minibuses - over several decades from the 1970s onwards.

Former professional footballers were among the complainers, the court heard.

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