Barry Bennell gets 30 years for sexual abuse

Barry Bennell gets 30 years for sexual abuse

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Introduction

One strand of historic sexual abuse in the UK that has only recently begun to come out is in relation to its existence in football (wikipedia has a good overview on it here).

On 19 February 2018 another high profile case, that of football coach Barry Bennell (known in Court as Richard Jones), ended as he was convicted of the bulk of a 48 count indictment relating to the sexual abuse of 11 different people).

He was sentenced to a total of 30 years for these offences (but see below for what that actually means).

 

Factual basis

This has been set out very well – have a look at the wikipedia article above, and a background piece by the BBC here, where it is set out in detail.

But, in summary, this was extensive sexual abuse of 11 boys, the more serious offences being buggery and penetrative offences.

Mr Bennell had pleaded guilty to some of the offences, but these were on the less ones and on a basis which was rejected.

There is a history – Mr Bennell had been convicted twice of similar (but less serious) offending in 1998 and got 9 years, as well as serving a sentence in the USA for similar offending.

The main point of mitigation was the fact that Mr Bennell had previously had cancer which had lead to the removal of most of his tongue and has a specialist feeding regime.

 

Sentence

The Judge’s Sentencing Remarks have been published. That is always required reading, but in this case particularly, it is set out very clearly.

The Judge sets out well why a life sentence or an extended sentence was not needed in this case. Essentially, as a 64 year old man who is now subject to a 30 year sentence, he will be 95 before he will be free of the sentence.

Bluntly, given his state of health and everything else, including simple statistics, he is unlikely to be alive by then. Even if he is, then it is very unlikely that he would present a risk to anyone.

Given that, the Judge passed a s236A sentence (see here for a bit of an overview of what that means). He had no choice about that under the law, but it does mean that Mr Bennell will not be released until by direction of the Parole Board, and he can only be considered for that after he has served 15 years (the sentence is actually 31 years – 30 years plus the one year extended licence).

This can cause confusion – the report on the BBC website for example wrongly states that he will be released after 15 years. Not so, he could be kept in custody until he has served the full 30 years.

The Judge also managed to avoid some of the pitfalls around these sorts of sentences (see the Ian Watkins case as an example) by making all sentences concurrent.

It is worth bearing in mind one practical point – if he had passed an extended sentence of, say, 30 years plus a 5 year extended licence, then he could not be considered for parole until after he had served 20 years – a big difference. Especially so as if he passed a life sentence, then the tariff (the earliest time that he could be considered for release) would have been set at 15 years.

The Supreme Court will soon be considering whether this difference is justified (on an appeal from the case of Stott – [2017] EWHC 214 (Admin)).

 

Will there be an appeal?

It is a very long sentence. The sort of sentence that would not have been contemplated twenty years ago. But things have changed and it is unlikely that the Court of Appeal will interfere with this.

One question is whether the sentence was enough? It seems strange to even contemplate that such a sentence could be unduly lenient (see here for what that means), but we would not rule it out. Probably not on the length itself, but potentially on whether there should have been an extended sentence (or even a life sentence).

One of the curiosities of the sentencing regime as set out above is that Mr Bennell would almost certainly prefer to be sentenced to a life sentence as opposed to an extended sentence, as (if he makes it that far) he will almost certainly serve less time in custody.

 

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Shame they saw fit to reproduce the sentencing remarks in block capitals, making it more cumbersome to read what is already quite a long document.

  2. I’d be interested in a compare and contrast with Matthew Falder also sentenced yesterday receiving about the same sentence. In his case however, all his offences (as far as I can see) were non-contact offences. He seems to have encouraged/extorted others to abuse whilst also making indecent images/videos over the internet.

  3. Firstly its a little worrying that the Parole Board get to revue his sentence and potential release based on recent events concerning sexual predators.

    @Rolo – I notice that the lawyers for the victims are already making noises about the two clubs where he was employed at one time in terms of bringing a civil case against them. I could be cynical (not like me eh?) and say that the lawyers are smelling the sweet aroma of money. We are always told by the “experts” that the likes of Bennell conduct their grooming and encounters in secret and the victims coerced into keeping quiet. So why should the clubs be aware of any of his activities? Of course we have the usual suspects basically stating “they must have known” and implying guilt or collusion with little or no evidence of such. The current atmosphere generated by the likes of #metoo and social media keyboard warriors means that allegation becomes fact irrespective of evidence and then propagated in certain sections of the media. So irrespective of ‘exposure’ I’m sure you will see legal action soon.

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