A victim of predatory paedophile Barry Bennell has said he wants to be a voice of hope in the darkness and make it easier for other victims of abuse to come forward and speak out.
Bennell, a sports coach and scout with links to the High Peak and Derbyshire, was found guilty last week of 43 offences, including indecent assault, buggery and attempted buggery, following a five-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court. The offences involved 11 victims between 1979 and 1989.
He pleaded guilty at the start of the trial to seven further offences. The 64-year-old carried out the abuse in a variety of locations including at his home addresses, at Butlin’s holiday park, in his car or on football tours.
Bennell - now known as Richard Jones - has already served three jail terms, amounting to around 15 years, for similar offences involving 16 other victims.
On Monday, Judge Clement Goldstone QC sentenced Bennell to more than 30 years in prison. He said: “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 that Bennell had stolen his victim’s “childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion”.
“Each has suffered and now, more than 30 to 35 years after you ruined these boys’, now mens’ lives, continues to suffer,” the judge added.
A survivor of Bennell’s abuse, Chris Unsworth, from Hayfield, wants to stop other children suffering at the hands of ‘predatory monsters’ within the world of sport. He has since helped set up the Offside Trust as a way to encourage other victims speak out.
Chris, 45, who has waived his right to anonymity in a bid to encourage more people to come forward, was abused between the age of eight and 14 by Bennell.
Chris said: “I was his youngest victim. He stole my childhood, ruined my dreams of being a footballer. He was even the reason I had a vasectomy as I didn’t want to ever bring children into a world when there are people like Bennell preying on innocent young people.
“When we were younger he was God with a football. He was the man who took players from grassroots teams and turned them into international players.
“But all the while he was a predatory monster. At just eight-years-old I was told to keep the abuse a secret as I wouldn’t get picked for matches, but by 14 I realised I had to walk away from him and from the sport.
“He has no power over me now and I’m pleased he has been given such a high sentence to reflect the severity of what he has done.”
Chris said most of his abuse occurred in the car while travelling to play and train for Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra youth teams when Bennell offered lifts, and then became more serious during sleepovers at Bennell’s house and on football trips.
He said: “For us there was no-one to talk to when it was happening, and it became a sordid secret that I carried around with me for decades, impacting on my school work and my sleep and my relationships. But it shouldn’t be like that.
“The world is changing now and we need to make sure something like this never happens again. Parents, the FA and even players themselves are more aware of what to look out for when it comes to abuse, but there is still so much more to do.
“Which is why I am so proud of the Offside Trust - this a group led by survivors for survivors, which is a very powerful thing. We will listen, we will believe you and we will help you.
“It has been a tough 14 months with the trial and reliving everything, but now is the time to build on this and become stronger. I want to take the Offside Trust, which is about safeguarding children in sport, to the next level and help more people.”
Detective Inspector Sarah Oliver, from Cheshire Police, who has been leading on the case, said: “There is no doubt that he (Bennell) is a predatory paedophile who abused his position of trust as a football coach for his own sexual gratification. He has shown a complete lack of empathy throughout the proceedings and the victims have had to relive what happened to them all those years ago – this has been an upsetting and difficult experience for them.
“Their bravery and courage in coming forward after all this time is remarkable and I would like to thank them for the support they have given throughout this case.”
The NSPCC issued a statement in response to the sentencing of Barry Bennell on Monday. It read: “Today’s sentence reflects the horrors of Bennell’s decades-long campaign of abuse. He ruthlessly preyed on the hopes and aspirations of young footballers who believed he held the key to their dreams and each victim has shown incredible bravery in speaking out about their ordeals.
“This appalling case underlines how important it is that sport is made as safe as possible for children. That’s why the NSPCC’s Trust to Lead campaign is calling for an extension to ‘position of trust’ laws.”
• The Offside Trust has as of yet received no monies to assist with the running of the charity. To donate or for more information, visit