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Crewe 'brushed Bennell scandal under carpet'

From BBC - February 15, 2018

The Barry Bennell scandal was "brushed under the carpet" by Crewe Alexandra, according to the eminent barrister who prosecuted the serial paedophile in 1998.

Lord Carlile - one of the country's top legal experts - told the BBC the club at the centre of the case was guilty of "institutional failure" over their former youth coach.

He also fears young footballers were abused because "this danger was not drawn to the attention of a wider public".

Bennell, 64, who has already served three prison sentences, has been convicted of 43 further charges of child sex abuse by a jury at Liverpool Crown Court.

In a statement on Thursday, Crewe said the club "was not aware of any sexual abuse by Bennell" until his arrest in Florida in 1994, and that it did not receive any sexual abuse complaint about him "before or during his employment with the club."

Crewe also said a police investigation found "no evidence to corroborate that the club was aware of Bennell's offending".

Bennell, who worked with a number of clubs across the north west of England, including Manchester City and Stoke City, was jailed for nine years in 1998, pleading guilty to 23 specimen charges at Chester Crown Court.

But the prosecuting barrister at the trial, Alex Carlile QC, who was made a life peer in 1999, has now spoken out for the first time about Crewe's handling of the case.

"I believe the Crewe board should have addressed this issue, and I'd be very interested to see the board minutes of the time because I feel sure the board would have discussed it in some way, but I have the feeling it was brushed under the carpet," he said.

"What I am satisfied about is that there should have been further inquiry by any club involved, including Crewe Alexandra. I am surprised I did not read subsequently that Crewe had carried out an inquiry into what had occurred."

Speaking to the BBC last year, Carlile said Bennell "seemed to me to be the embodiment of the sort of person you wanted no nearer than a million miles from your children".

League Two club Crewe have been under intense scrutiny over what was known about Bennell since former player Andy Woodward spoke out in November about the abuse he had suffered while a trainee at the club. Since then, other former players who say they were victims of Bennell have come forward.

A former board member at Crewe, Hamilton Smith, has claimed he had warned the club about Bennell's relationship with young boys in the late 1980s, but the coach was allowed to stay in his job.

Bennell was eventually sacked in 1992 for reasons that have never been made public. Smith also says he asked the FA to investigate the case in 2001, after Bennell was convicted, but was ignored.

"If any senior people at the club knew more than they let on at the time then they should have been open about it," said Carlile.

"Football coaches had immense power over young boys who they were training and clubs were in the place of parents and it's quite clear that they did not take that position seriously."

Crewe director of football Dario Gradi, who was the club's manager from 1983 to 2007, was suspended by the Football Association in November. During Bennell's trial in 1998 it was revealed that one of the offences happened at Gradi's house.

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