Petition launched to change law for alleged victims of paedophile Bob Higgins

A petition has been launched to change the law which prevents alleged sexual abusers being prosecuted for the same crime after they have been acquitted.

A lawyer acting for six alleged victims of convicted paedophile football coach Bob Higgins (pictured) wants to close the “legal loophole” which prevents him from being tried for further alleged offences against them.

The 66-year-old ex-youth coach at Southampton Football Club was jailed in June for 24 years and three months at Winchester Crown Court for 46 offences of indecent assault against 24 teenage boys between 1971 and 1996.

But a previous trial in 1991 involving the six complainants, including former Southampton footballer Dean Radford, collapsed after Higgins was acquitted of one charge against one of the alleged victims.

Double jeopardy laws mean a defendant can only be tried again for offences when “compelling new evidence” has emerged and on the most serious offences such as murder.

Dino Nocivelli, from London law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, launched the petition to get child sexual abuse to be classed as a serious crime in law, allowing those previously acquitted of it to be prosecuted again.

Mr Nocivelli said: “In the last two years, nearly 100 people have come forward to allege sexual abuse at the hands of Higgins and 23 of these people recently obtained guilty verdicts in their cases.

“The level of new and compelling evidence against Higgins would allow the original six cases to be retried if child sexual abuse was rightly classified as a serious crime.

“It is time that the case of the original six Higgins complainants is reopened to ensure that justice is done for my clients.”

On Monday the petition had reached 1,369 signatures.

Mr Radford said he and other former players allegedly abused by Higgins “deserve justice”.

He said: “I and many others deserve justice and we need the current double jeopardy laws to be changed.”

Another of the six, who did not want to be named, said: “Child abuse is something that never goes away and it is something that I will have to live with forever. For the Government to state that child abuse is not ‘serious’ or ‘severe’ enough to be an exception to the double jeopardy rules is outrageous.”

The campaign to change the law has already been supported by Victims Commissioner Vera Baird QC, Labour MP Sarah Champion, along with Southampton club ambassador and former player Matt Le Tissier.

Mr Le Tissier said: “The law should be protecting society, not the alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse.

“So many people have come forward alleging child sexual abuse against Bob Higgins since his trial in the 1990s and I think it is only fair and right that the six claimants get their cases reopened so that they can try and get some justice for themselves.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Hampshire Constabulary / PA Wire.

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