Bob Higgins, the former youth football coach, who was recently found guilty of 46 charges of indecently assaulting 24 boys, mostly involving trainees at Southampton and Peterborough United between 1971 and 1996, has now been sentenced to 24 years and three months in jail.
Southampton FC has published a formal apology on its website to all victims and survivors of the abuse by Higgins, stating that it “recognises that some of the boys under our care suffered exposure to abuse when they should have received protection from any form of harm. For this, the club is deeply sorry.”
Southampton FC go on to say that it is continuing to work with the police and will start consulting with victims and survivors individually once the police have confirmed that it is acceptable to do so. It will then extend its own investigation to include working with Barnardo’s, as an independent organisation, to undertake a full review. Southampton FC is encouraging any victims and survivors of abuse by Higgins, who wish to do so, to contact the police or The Association of Child Abuse Lawyers.
The police have also made their own apologies to six further victims who were told that their allegations could not be tried in court because their claims were part of a 1991 court case against Higgins. After claims were made against Higgins in 1989, he was acquitted of a single offence in 1991 with prosecutors offering no more evidence on other charges, leading the Judge to enter a not guilty verdict. Due to the principle of ‘double jeopardy’, Higgins was unable to be tried twice for the same allegations. The earlier acquittals meant that Higgins was allowed to return to his work where he continued his abuse of young players.
Although relaxed in 2003 in respect of certain cases where “strong and viable” new evidence emerges, the double jeopardy rule does not currently apply to cases of indecent assault of a child. Lawyers for some of the victims who were unable to have further charges brought against Higgins have now written to the Justice Secretary to request that the double jeopardy rule be reviewed.
David Milton, Partner, BLM