Man City ask convicted child abuser Barry Bennell to give evidence in damages hearing as eight men sue them after being abused by ex-coach – with club accused of using ‘information from one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles’ to defend itself
- Manchester City want Barry Bennell to give evidence in a damages claim
- Eight men are suing City for damages after being abused by ex-coach Bennell
- Convicted child abuser Bennell is currently serving a 34-year sentence in prison
- The eight claimants say Bennell was working for City when they were abused
- City have been accused of using a ‘notorious paedophile’ to defend them
Manchester City has been accused of using ‘information from one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles’ to defend itself.
Eight former youth footballers have launched a lawsuit at the High Court, claiming the abuse they received by prolific, convicted child abuser and ex-coach Barry Bennell, left them with psychiatric injuries, while six of the group say it robbed them of the chance of a lucrative career.
Each of the men, now in their 40s and 50s, is seeking damages, but City’s lawyers have asked Bennell – serving a 34-year sentence in prison – to give evidence on their behalf in a bid to fight off the claims.
Delivering a cutting opening, James Counsell QC, representing the men, said that City ‘now bases its defence full square on information it has received from one of Britain’s most notorious paedophiles’.
The group claim Bennell abused them between 1979 and 1985 while he was a Manchester City scout and thus want damages from the club.
Manchester City have been accused of using information from convicted child abuser and ex-coach Barry Bennell (above)
Eight former youth footballers have launched a lawsuit at the High Court claiming the abuse they received from Bennell left them with psychiatric injuries
City dispute that was the case but Counsell described Bennell as ‘integral to the Manchester City youth set-up, an important part of a recruitment process’.
Mr Justice Johnson was told that Bennell, who has been convicted of sexual offences against boys on five separate occasions – four in the UK and one in the US – had a sky blue identification card which described him as City’s ‘north-west representative’.
The trial is listed for eight weeks, with Bennell set to give evidence via videolink from prison on December 6.
The men say he worked as a scout for City and ran various youth feeder teams, mainly under-14s, on the club’s behalf and for its benefit.
Bennell is currently serving a 34-year sentence in prison
‘The abuse inflicted on each of these claimants had a life-changing impact on each of them,’ Counsell added. ‘It was inflicted in circumstances where Bennell was operating as a coach and scout within Manchester City’s youth operations for the commercial benefit of the club. ‘As a matter of law, Manchester City is vicariously liable for the acts and abuse perpetrated by Bennell.’
The club denies Bennell was an employee or in a relationship ‘akin to employment’ at ‘the material times’ and denies being vicariously liable.
It set up a compensation scheme for Bennell’s victims and those of two other paedophiles who had been affiliated to the club. They are understood to have paid around £4m in damages to around 70 people although did not accept any liability.
An apology the club offered to Bennell’s victims was branded ’empty’ by Counsell.
Michael Kent QC, from Keogh’s, who are representing Manchester City’s insurers, disputed the case put by the eight men.
‘The defendant’s case in summary is that Bennell was not even a ‘local scout’ for Manchester City FC from about 1978/79,’ Mr Kent told the judge in a written argument.
City deny Bennell was an employee or in a relationship ‘akin to employment’ while the club’s apology was branded ’empty’ by James Counsell QC
‘He also decided to set up and run his own junior football teams in Derbyshire from around 1981 until 1985, but they had no connection whatsoever with Manchester City FC.
‘However, in view of his previous contacts with the club he was able to and did for his own benefit play up his connections and imply that anyone playing for one of his junior teams had a good chance of being offered a trial at the club if they performed well.
‘The defendant’s case therefore is straightforward: Bennell was neither an employee nor acting in a role akin to employment at any time (whether during the period with which these claims are concerned or before).’