Manchester City FC wins High Court battle over coach Barry Bennell sexual abuse claims

·2-min read
   (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Manchester City FC has won a High Court battle to avoid compensating eight men who say they were sexually abused by a predatory coach Barry Bennell.

The Premier League leaders were accused of “vicarious liability” for Bennell’s abuse of schoolboy footballers between 1979 and 1985, at a time when he claimed to have ties to the club.

But Mr Justice Johnson ruled on Monday that Manchester City does not have to pay damages to the men as it had not been responsible for putting them in harm’s way with Bennell.

“The connection between the abuse and Bennell’s relationship with MCFC is insufficient to give rise to vicarious liability,” said the judge in his written ruling.

“The relationship gave Bennell the opportunity to commit the abuse, but MCFC had not entrusted the welfare of the claimants to Bennell.

Undated file photo of ex-football coach and convicted paedophile Barry Bennell (PA Wire)
Undated file photo of ex-football coach and convicted paedophile Barry Bennell (PA Wire)

“It follows that it has not been shown that MCFC is legally responsible for Bennell’s acts of abuse.”

The legal case was brought by eight men, now in their 40s and 50s, who say they were all sexually abused by Bennell while playing for youth teams that he coached in the north west of England.

They argued City should be held responsible for Bennell’s abuse, arguing his status was “one of employment or one akin to employment”.

But Bennell, who is now serving a 34-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of boys, gave evidence for City, denying he was officially linked to the club between 1979 and 1985.

Giving evidence from prison, he told the High Court he had been a “local scout” for City between 1975 and 1979, but was never a coach for the club and “exploited” his ties to City for his “own benefit” in the years after 1979.

The eight men brought damages claims for psychiatric injuries, while six of them also wanted damages for loss of potential football earnings.

But the judge on Monday dismissed all their claims. Bennell – now going by the name Richard Jones – was dubbed “sheer evil” and the “devil incarnate” when a judge jailed him in 2018 for a catalogue of sexual abuse.

He used his role as a football coach to prey on young boys that he would invite to stay at his home.

In his evidence to the High Court, Bennell accepted he had abused some of the eight men involved in the case, but became angry when he was questioned on the extent of his offending.

A lawyer for the men, David McClenaghan, said they are “both shocked and dismayed” by the ruling.

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