Thursday 18 January 2018

Ex-football coach Barry Bennell was a 'predatory and determined paedophile with unfettered access to boys', court hears

Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire
Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire

Eleanor Barlow and Kim Pilling

Former football coach Barry Bennell was a "predatory and determined" paedophile who engaged in systematic abuse of young boys, a court has heard.

The 63-year-old appeared at Liverpool Crown Court via video-link on Tuesday, accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court that the ex-Crewe coach, who has since changed his name to Richard Jones, worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire in the late 1970s and into the 1990s.

Mr Johnson said: "As such, he had pretty much unfettered access to large numbers of young lads who dreamt of a life in professional football.

"Although it seems that Mr Jones, or Mr Bennell, was a skilled and relatively successful coach, we allege that he had a much darker side.

"He was also, we say, a predatory and determined paedophile: his particular predilection was pre-pubescent boys."

Mr Johnson said some of the abuse took place at Crewe's ground and when the football club were on tour, while many of the incidents also took place at his home addresses.

Bennell is charged with offences including indecent assault, buggery and attempted buggery on boys aged between eight and 14.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, was told that Bennell was appearing in court via video-link because he needs to be fed through a tube as a result of illness.

They heard that, if he gave evidence during the trial, he would be present in court.

Ahead of his trial starting on Monday, Bennell pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault.

A reporting restriction on a guilty plea to a charge of indecent assault entered at an earlier hearing was lifted by Recorder of Liverpool Judge Clement Goldstone QC.

The seven offences Bennell has admitted relate to three victims and happened between 1981 and 1991, when they were aged between 11 and 14.

The prosecutor told jurors that part of the evidence they would hear concerned serious sexual allegations made in the past against Bennell by young footballers in England and Wales, and also in the United States.

He said that, as a result of some of those allegations, the defendant had pleaded guilty to a number of sex offences and had served prison sentences in this jurisdiction and in the US.

When interviewed about the allegations he currently faces, said Mr Johnson, from time to time the defendant said people were making things up about him and using details they had gleaned from the internet - put there by youth footballers who previously made complaints of serious sexual misconduct against him.

Mr Johnson said: ''He alleged that he is now in effect the victim of a concerted effort by people from the past to make false allegations against him.

''He suggested that when, in the past, he had been arrested for serious sexual offending, he had admitted what he had done.''

Mr Johnson told jurors they may have already heard that Bennell had admitted some sexual offending against three people in this case.

Those were admissions of mutual masturbation, said the prosecutor, but Bennell is also accused of much more serious offending including both oral sex and buggery - which would be categorised these days as male rape.

He told jurors they would have to decide in evidence whether they were listening to a group of men who, as Bennell alleges, had ''jumped on the bandwagon'' and maliciously made up stories, or if they agreed with the Crown's case that a devious paedophile was committing serious sexual offences on a large scale and over a long period of time against ''very vulnerable lads''.

Mr Johnson added: ''In those circumstances we will suggest in due course that it is no surprise either that the extent of his offending has taken so long to emerge or that there is repetition in the way, we allege, he committed his offences.''

The jury was told one alleged victim had been abused by Bennell on more than 100 occasions after meeting him when he was a scout for Manchester City.

Mr Johnson said the complainant and other boys would stay at Bennell's house, which he said at first seemed an ''attractive proposition'' for the youngsters.

He said: ''Not only was there the promise of high quality football, but they were given lots of sports kit and allowed to eat takeaway food.''

Bennell denied sexual contact with the complainant when questioned by police and told them he was ''one who got away with it''.

The court heard Bennell would ''play fight'' with the boys, put on horror films for them and play a game with them called 'Follow Me', where they would mirror his actions and he would increase degrees of intimacy to gauge whether they would be compliant to abuse.

The complainant alleged he would turn the lights off once the boys were in bed and would play music to mask the sound of the abuse, the court heard.

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