Ex-youth football coach jailed for over 24 years for abusing boys

|News, Sexual offences

An ex-youth football coach who carried out a 20 year campaign of sexual abuse while working at two major English football clubs has been sentenced to 24 years and 3 months imprisonment today at Winchester Crown Court  for the abuse of boys.

Bob Higgins, 66, abused youngsters who crossed his path while he was coaching at Southampton Football Club and Peterborough United between 1971 and 1996.

He was famous for spotting and nurturing a number of talented players who went on to achieve significant success in the game, both nationally and internationally.  

Claire Booth of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Many young boys dream of becoming a footballer and training for a prestigious team.

“Bob Higgins preyed on and abused young boys – some of who adored him – and in doing so tainted and shattered the dreams of many.

“Being scouted by such a talented renowned coach was not something you would have turned down. Sadly it meant some had to grow up with this terrible secret, which for some was all-consuming.”

The jury at Bournemouth Crown Court heard how Higgins used his notoriety and the power that came with his coaching role to gain their trust as well as exploiting the trust of their parents.

When some of the boys challenged Higgins he told them that if they spoke up, no one would believe them and their future would be in jeopardy.

The CPS was able to present evidence of how some of the victims, now adults, have been affected by Bob Higgins’ criminal behaviour. One victim, Billy Seymour, tragically died before this prosecution but whose evidence was still used in this trial.

Claire Booth added: “We would like to thank all the victims who came forward and who had the courage to face Bob Higgins, as well as their families and all the witnesses.

“We now hope that with this sentence all of the victims in this case will be able to find some closure.”

Building the case

Claire Booth of the Crown Prosecution Service said: “The Crown Prosecution Service demonstrated to the jury that Bob Higgins was a predatory paedophile who applied a systematic and pervasive pattern of behaviour on each victim.

“More than 20 victims gave evidence and told the jury a similar account of him touching them while he was driving them to or from a match, touching their legs and/or their groins and abusing them at his home.

“This could not be a coincidence and as most of the victims did not know each other or had not spoken for years since their footballing days, there could be no suggestion of collusion.

“Many calls were made to the NSPCC helpline following ex-footballer Andy Woodward’s revelation of childhood abuse* on television. They were all investigated and gave a clear picture of the nature and extent of Bob Higgins’ offending.

“Bob Higgins denied throughout this case any wrongdoing.  Thanks to this prosecution we have been able to prove that his actions were criminal.”

Notes to editors

Robert ‘Bob’ Higgins was convicted of 45 offences of indecent assault on 23 May 2019 at Winchester Crown Court.

* Andy Woodward a former professional footballer gave an interview on the Victoria Derbyshire Show in 2016, where he talked about the abuse he endured as a youth trainee.

Following this interview, the NSPCC set up a dedicated helpline for anyone who had encountered during their childhood sexual abuse in a sport environment.

One name was repeatedly mentioned, which was Bob Higgins’ name.

Claire Booth is the Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS Wessex Rape and Serious Sexual Offences Unit (Rasso)

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