Former football scout and coach, Barry Bennell, was sentenced to 31 years in jail for a large number of counts of child abuse during his time working with children. Due to Bennell’s notoriety in the football world, and the sheer scale of the crimes committed, this case gained widespread coverage in the media and outcry from the British public. For more information on the case, take a look at our article here.
Many questions have been raised following the trial, so we spoke to Jeremy Moore, Managing Director and the Head of Sports Law here at Carter Moore, to find out more.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Barry Bennell case raised many questions about the trial and sentencing process. Here are the answers to some queries you may have:
What does it mean when a sentence is to be served concurrently?
As Bennell was charged with multiple counts of the same crime, his sentence for each individual charge are served concurrently ie: at the same time.
This means that his total sentence that he has to serve is a reflection of the overall criminality of his actions.
How many years are life sentences?
The duration of the life sentence will depend on the type and severity of the crime committed. Before release, the parole board would have to be satisfied that the person is at sufficiently low risk of reoffending that he can be released into the community. Once released, the individual is ‘on licence’ for life and any breaches of the terms of the licence could lead to them being recalled to prison.
How did the judge work out Barry Bennell sentencing for the multiple child sex offences?
Once the Jury decided that Bennell was guilty, the Judge then decided on an appropriate sentence for him. This was based on the nature of the crimes committed, details about Bennell himself and any previous convictions and the severity of the impact that his abuse had on the victim’s lives.
Could the judge have chosen a longer sentence for Bennell, or are there guidelines and limits that must be followed?
When giving a sentence, the Judge must follow guidelines that are provided by the Sentencing Council. The Judge will also take into account the sentences that have been given in similar cases, and will have considered Bennell’s behaviour too in order to come to an appropriate sentence.
Did the jury decide that Barry Bennell was guilty, or the judge?
As this was a serious criminal case it took place in the Crown Court where a jury decides on guilt. They decided that Bennell was guilty. The Judge may direct the Jury during a criminal trial, but the Judge doesn’t decide on the facts, unless it is clear that no Jury could possibly convict someone of the offence.
Do you believe that the FA / football clubs knew about this abuse but chose to keep quiet?
It’s hard to say if football clubs were aware of Bennell’s behaviour or the allegations against him. Internal investigations are taking place in a number of clubs, the results of which should provide more information about what was (or wasn’t) known.
How much will the victims receive in payouts? Will the football clubs be accountable for these payouts?
Bennell could be responsible for paying any claims made against him for criminal injuries caused, however the victims could also make a claim from the CICA who pay out claims for criminal injuries suffered.
If future investigations show that football clubs were aware of Bennell’s behaviour at the time of the abuse, and didn’t put steps into place to safeguard the children in his care, then victims may potentially be able to take legal action against the clubs too.
How would the prosecution have built the case?
Once an individual had reported their abuse to the police, the police would then interview them and any relevant witnesses.
The case would then be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide if the case should go to court, if the case is strong enough.
At that stage, it is likely that the police will have appealed for further victims to come forward.
How did the prosecution select the charges that would properly reflect the offences that Bennell carried out?
Each individual who accused Bennell of a crime was asked to describe their experience and when it happened to them. The Crown Prosecution Service would then decide whether there was sufficient evidence within each case to justify a charge.
What happens if more victims come forward even though he is in prison?
If more victims come forward in the future, Bennell may go back to court to be tried on the new allegations, if it is in the interest of justice.
In this case, he would (if found guilty) receive additional sentences in respect of those new matters.
Would he be in ‘normal’ prison or kept away? Would he have protection from the other prisoners?
Whilst serving his sentence, Bennell will likely be placed in a ‘vulnerable prisoners’ (VP) wing. This is due to the nature of his offences and the notoriety of the case, which may put him in danger of violence from other inmates.
Bennell will serve at least half of his sentence in prison, and then will be released on licence. He will only be released on licence at that stage, if the Parole Board are satisfied that he poses no risk to the public, and is unlikely to reoffend.
What does remand mean?
If you are charged with a serious crime, you may be put on remand rather than being given bail. This means that you will go to prison whilst you wait for your case to be heard at court.
Will the remand count towards his sentence?
The time Bennell spent in prison on remand will count towards his 31-year prison sentence.
What does conviction mean?
A conviction is a formal decision made by a judge or jury in a court that you are guilty of a crime.
What does allegation mean?
Allegations are the list of charges that have been brought against you, but not yet proven.
What is a specimen charge?
If an individual is charged with multiple counts of the same offence, they can be charged with a specimen charge instead. A specimen charge provides a sample of the charges, rather than listing each one, to make the prosecution process more simple.
The jury was directed by the judge to deliver not guilty verdicts on three charges – what does this mean?
In certain cases, a Judge may direct the Jury pass verdicts in one particular way or another which the Jury are obliged to follow.
The Judge will only direct a Jury when it is clear in the eyes of the law that no reasonable Jury could convict the defendant on the evidence.
Why do victims stay quiet for so long?
Victims may choose not to report crimes due to a number of reasons, but typically this is because of the stigma and emotional distress that comes hand in hand with abuse cases and the desire to put it behind them.
Did he only get served 31 years because he is already 63? Why not just call it life?
Life sentences can only be given under specific circumstances for certain types of offences, such as in murder cases. The Judge will have used all the information presented in the trial, and guidelines on sentencing, to give the most appropriate sentence for the circumstances.
If you’ve been the victim of abuse – whether physical, emotional or sexual – as a child, you may be able to make a claim against your abuser for compensation. To find out more about what steps you could take, contact our specialist child abuse team today.