FA appoints top lawyer to handle review into child sex abuse allegations

The Football Association (FA) has appointed a senior lawyer to assist with its review into historical child sex abuse allegations.

Sunday, 27th November 2016, 10:09 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 3:19 pm
Youngsters get a briefing from their coach during an FA competition in the North East.

Kate Gallafent QC will oversee the internal review which has been set up following a string of allegations by former youth footballers.

Andy Woodward became the first to speak out last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach.

Durham FA has moved quickly to reassure the public of its strict policies to prevent abuse.The national FA said that a "wide-ranging inquiry may be required in time" but said it was supporting police with their investigations and "must ensure we do not do anything to interfere with or jeopardise the criminal process".

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It added: "The internal review will look into what information the FA was aware of at the relevant times around the issues that have been raised in the press, what clubs were aware of, and what action was or should have been taken."

Gallafent will make recommendations "to ensure these situations can never be repeated", the FA said.

The Metropolitan Police and forces in Hampshire, Northumbria and Cheshire said they are investigating abuse allegations.

Some claims came from a dedicated NSPCC hotline - on 0800 023 2642 - commissioned by the FA for football-related cases.

A "significant" number of other alleged victims of abuse are likely to come forward and other sporting governing bodies may report similar problems, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead for child protection, has warned.

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in north-west England and the Midlands, abused young boys from the 1970s onwards. He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 football tour of Florida, and given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 football camp in Macclesfield.

Those to have made allegations against Bennell include former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford, plus ex-Crewe player Steve Walters and youngster Chris Unsworth.

Former England international Paul Stewart has also spoken out about being sexually abused by a coach as a child.

The Guardian reported that an unnamed former Newcastle United player had also contacted police with allegations against George Ormond, a north- east coach jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults spanning 24 years.

Crewe Alexandra has said it will launch an independent review of the way it dealt with historical child abuse allegations.

A former Crewe board member said the club was told Bennell had sexually abused one of its junior footballers.

Hamilton Smith, who was on the board between 1986 and 1990, told The Guardian he called for a meeting after being told a boy had been abused.

Bennell was allowed to stay on but orders were issued that he should not be left alone with boys, Mr Smith said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) said it was "watching events closely" and opened the door to examining allegations in the growing scandal.

The Premier League said it is "very concerned" by the allegations.

Newcastle United said it would co-operate with authorities "if or when the club receives further information" and Manchester City said it is reviewing Bennell's links with the club.

Operation Hydrant, which oversees the investigation of allegations of historical child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence, is trying to pinpoint the scale of the alleged abuse.

It has contacted all forces in England and Wales asking them to forward details of the allegations they have received following the recent publicity.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley urged victims of abuse in sport to contact police, saying "you will be listened to".

She told BBC 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics: "I welcome the FA's announcement that they have just made about employing Kate Gallafent QC to look at this.

"We do need to look at this independently, we do need to make sure that the FA and others who I know take this seriously - I spoke to them last week - get to the bottom of this, understand what happened.

"But to anyone who has been a victim, no matter what sport, no matter what part of life, if you have been a victim of abuse please come forward so we can get that evidence, get that information and we can make sure perpetrators are brought to justice."