Ex youth football manager jailed for historic abuse of boys as young as 12

A former youth football manager described by a sheriff as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” has been jailed for four years for abusing boys.

Frank Cairney, 83, was found guilty of historical sex offences from his time running a church youth team and, later, Celtic Boys Club.

Cairney, from Uddingston in South Lanarkshire, committed the offences against boys as young as 12 between 1965 and 1986.

Sentencing him at Hamilton Sheriff Court on Thursday, Sheriff Daniel Kelly QC said: “What the boys most wanted was to play football, it being their dream to play for Celtic, and you organised a church youth team and went on to manage a team at the Celtic Boys Club.

“This proved to be the sinister cover for you to use your powerful position to prey upon boys. You were trusted in the church community.

“At Celtic Boys Club you had a great say in which of the young men would progress to being taken on by Celtic Football Club.

“A wolf in sheep’s clothing, little did the parents suspect that the revered football manager was in fact an active paedophile.”

The sheriff said the crimes occurred at a time when there was little adult supervision and the boys had been left to protect each other.

When they spoke up Cairney was allowed no further involvement with the church football team but was free to move on to Celtic Boys Club.

Sheriff Kelly said: “You have shown no remorse or empathy, continuing to peddle your version of events and to maintain the facade which you have presented for all of these years.

“A consequence of these matters only now coming to court is that for decades you have not been held to account for your offending. You have had the opportunity to enjoy many years of productive life.

“Your victims have not all have been so lucky. The impact on them is still being felt.”

Cairney abused the boys at various locations including his car, a church hall and Barrowfield training ground in Glasgow.

The trial heard he locked one of his victims in a room and made him sit in a chair before assaulting him.

He was convicted of seven charges of indecent assault and two charges of lewd behaviour.

Fraser Gibson, Procurator Fiscal for South Strathclyde and Dumfries & Galloway, said: “Those who gave evidence should be commended for coming forward to report what he had done to them and providing the basis for this prosecution.

“I hope that this action provides confidence to victims of historic sexual abuse that action will be taken, and our expert prosecutors will act with professionalism and integrity to ensure that justice is seen to be done.”

A spokesman for NSPCC Scotland said: “Abuse ruins childhoods and its effects last into adulthood.

“Cairney’s victims have shown incredible bravery in coming forward to help make sure he has finally faced justice for his crimes, showing once again that anyone who has suffered child sexual abuse will be listened to, regardless of how many years have passed.”

Detective Chief Inspector Laura Carnochan, of the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit, Police Scotland, said: “Francis Cairney is a serial child abuser, who took advantage of the children in his care. All of the boys he abused dreamed of being footballers, and Cairney exploited those dreams for his own purposes, carrying out his sexual assaults with no thought of the impact on his victims.

Reporting abuse is incredibly difficult and it can take months and years before someone feels able to report and I commend the bravery of those who reported against Cairney who is finally facing the consequences of his actions.

“If you or anyone you know has been a victim of abuse please contact us, we will listen and we will take action.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Danny Lawson / PA Wire.