Barry Bennell has been jailed for 30 years for sexually abusing young boys he preyed on while working as a football coach. The Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, described Bennell as “the devil incarnate” while passing the sentence.
“Your behaviour towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil,” he said.
“You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”
Bennell was convicted of 50 child sexual abusing offenses against children as young as eight but many were specimen counts to reflect abuses committed on an “industrial scale” between 1979 and 1991.
The 64-year-old was convicted of sexual abusing offenses against 12 boys but another 86 complainants have since come forward, pushing his potential victims over 100.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how Bennell used his former positions as a coach for Crewe Alexandra coach and Manchester City scout to abuse the young boys in his care, exploiting their dreams to buy their silence.
Several of his victims attended the trial, cheering from the public gallery when the guilty verdicts were announced last week, and one confronted Bennell during Monday’s sentencing hearing.
Police officer Gary Cliffe, who waived his anonymity, approached his abuser in the glass dock after reading a statement and asked “Barry. Barry. Why?”
Bennell silently looked downwards before officers and ushers intervened to escort Detective Constable Cliffe, of Staffordshire Police, to his seat in the packed public gallery.
He was among four victims who personally read their statements in the witness box, with three others read to the court by prosecutor Nicholas Johnson QC.
“Not a day goes by without thinking about the abuse I received,” one man said. “I was just a child. I am determined to claim back control of my life and live it to its fullest.”
Chris Unsworth, who has also waived anonymity, told how Bennell ”destroyed“ his dream of becoming a professional footballer and another victim called him a “monster”.
Another victim said: “I feel I have never escaped my past and have never learned to cope…I feel Barry and Crewe Alexandra have completely stolen my life from me.”
A separate account to the court said:
“This man took my one and only childhood without a second thought and with no regret or remorse.