London: A former English football coach at the centre of a major sex abuse scandal has been charged with eight offences of sexual assault against a boy aged under 14.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said on Tuesday that the charges against 62-year-old Barry Bennell were laid after it received a file of evidence from police relating to allegations of historical abuse, reports Xinhua.
The CPS said Bennell, a former youth coach at Crewe Alexandra, is scheduled to appear before South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court on December 14.
The case has rocked Britain’s football community after more than 20 former professional players stated they had been abused as young players.
It emerged on Monday that Bennell was found unconscious at an address in Stevenage on last Friday and taken to hospital. No details have been given about the reason for his health issue.
The scandal led to a debate in the British House of Commons on Tuesday when Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley was asked what the government is doing to support victims of historical sexual abuse in football, and what steps are being taken to help to ensure that there is no repeat of it.
“Child sex abuse is an exceptionally vile crime, and all of government take it very seriously indeed, as I know this House does. Children up and down the country are able to play football thanks to the dedication of thousands of adults, many of them volunteers,” Bradley said.
“The vast majority have no stain on their character. However, where people who work with children betray their trust, the effect is devastating.”
The Minister paid tribute to the players, many who played for big name clubs during their careers, who “have summoned up the courage to speak out”.
“It is vital that they know that their voices will be heard, whether they are speaking about historical crimes or about anything that is happening currently. Coaches and parents have a duty of care to children and must also speak out where they suspect abuse,” he said.
The Football Association (FA) has instructed an independent leading barrister who is an expert in child protection, to look at what the FA and clubs knew, and when, and what action was or should have been taken.
Bradley said she is to convene a meeting with Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the national police lead on child abuse, as well as the FA and others to discuss the latest situation.
A helpline set up by the children’s charity NSPCC, in response to the football scandal, has so far received more than 250 calls. Seven separate police investigations are currently underway looking into abuse claims against team coaches.
Greg Clarke, Chairman of the FA in England said on Tuesday the football child sex abuse scandal is one of the biggest crises in the history of the Football Association.