Celtic sex abuse regret 'too little, too late'

image copyrightEdinburgh Elitemedia
image captionJim McCafferty leaves court after his sentencing

Celtic has expressed "regret and sorrow" 10 days after a former youth coach was jailed for a series of child sex abuse crimes.

Jim McCafferty, 73, was a coach and kit man for the club's youth team and also worked for Celtic Boys Club.

Last week McCafferty admitted 12 charges related to child sex abuse against 10 teenage boys.

Despite repeated requests by the BBC, Celtic only released a statement about the case on Friday afternoon.

The statement said: "James McCafferty has pled guilty to offences he committed against young people between 1972 and 1996.

"Celtic Football Club wishes to express its regret and sorrow to those young people.

"McCafferty, who was employed by Celtic Football Club in the mid 1990s, committed these acts many years ago across a number of organisations, and all those who have come forward to report abuse and to give evidence deserve enormous praise for the courage they have shown.

"We offer our sincere sympathy to those young people, their families and all those involved."

image copyrightAlan Lewis
image captionJim McCafferty was already serving a jail term after a trial in Northern Ireland

But solicitor Patrick McGuire, who represents several abuse survivors, criticised the club.

He said: "It would be charitable to Celtic to describe this as too little, too late.

"There is no apology. There is no acknowledgement of Celtic's failures.

"There is no willingness to pay compensation and to follow the lead of Manchester City, particularly as we know some of the abuse took place when McCafferty was employed by Celtic and was in a position of considerable influence and power within the Celtic football club youth set-up."

Professional footballers

McCafferty was sentenced to six years and nine months at the High Court in Edinburgh on 14 May.

He was already serving a jail term after he was found guilty of sexually abusing a teenage boy in Belfast last year.

In relation to the latest charges against McCafferty, which spanned from 1972 to 1996, most of his victims played for youth teams he ran in North Lanarkshire.

Four played for Celtic Boys Club and Celtic youth team. They were aged between 14 and 17.

The incidents took place in several locations across Scotland - including team showers, hotel rooms and minibuses.

The court heard that among the complainers were former professional footballers.

Some of McCafferty's victims developed alcohol and mental health problems as a consequence of the abuse he subjected them too.

image captionMcCafferty (far left) pictured with a Celtic youth team

Judge Lord Beckett said he was "physically intimidating" and used his "overpowering" nature to achieve his "depraved objectives" of abusing young boys.

He added: "You took advantage of your position of trust as a football coach to groom and then sexually abuse boys who played for your teams.

"You were adept at identifying the circumstances of different boys so that you could manipulate them and in some cases their parents in a variety of ways.

"All of this was done to facilitate your sexually abusing children."

McCafferty's lawyer told the court he wanted to apologise to his victims and their families.

He is the fourth man connected to either Celtic or Celtic Boys Club to be found guilty of historical child sex abuse in the past year.

image captionBoth Jim Torbett (left) and Frank Cairney (right) have been convicted of abusing children at Celtic Boys Club

Last November Celtic Boys Club founder Jim Torbett was jailed for six years for sexually abusing three boys over eight years.

After his conviction Celtic took two days to issue a statement, which expressed "deep regret".

Earlier this year, the boys club's former chairman, Gerald King, was given a three-year probation order for sexually abusing four boys and a girl in the 1980s.

And in February Frank Cairney, a former manager of the boys club, was jailed for four years after being convicted of nine charges of sexually abusing young footballers.

On Thursday he lost a bid to be released on bail while appealing his conviction.

'Sincere sympathy'

Celtic's statement on the latest case was published on the club's website at 16:10 on Friday.

It comes on the eve of the Scottish Cup Final which will see the club take on Hearts at Hampden.

Mr McGuire, of Glasgow-based law firm Thompsons, condemned the timing as "cynical in the extreme".

image captionPatrick McGuire said the timing of the statement was "cynical in the extreme"

He said: "The conviction and sentencing of McCafferty was over a week ago.

"To put this statement out late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend on the day the prime minister resigns and before a potential Treble Treble weekend for the club is appalling.

"It is insult to everyone who suffered abuse and to their families.

"It is the worst kind of PR low cunning and casts the club in an even worse light than before. Every member of the Celtic board should hang their heads in shame. "

'Right to protection'

The Celtic statement acknowledged the crimes were "very sensitive issues, particularly for those who suffered abuse."

It said: "When the allegations were published in the media in 2016, Celtic Football Club encouraged any individuals involved to report all information to the police so that these matters could be investigated fully and the club continues to encourage any victim of abuse to report these matters to the police."

"Celtic Football Club takes all of its responsibilities seriously, stands by its responsibilities and will continue to do so."

The statement noted the abuse of children has affected many areas of society across the UK, including football clubs, sports clubs, youth organisations, educational institutions and religious bodies.

It concluded: "Celtic Football Club strongly believes that children and young people involved in football have the right to protection from all forms of harm and abuse and is committed to ensuring this and to promoting their wellbeing through continued co-operation with our children and young people, parents and carers and the relevant authorities.

"Celtic Football Club was the first club in Scotland to appoint a safeguarding officer, responsible for developing our policies for the protection of young people, and monitoring and reviewing our procedures to ensure they continue to reflect best practice."

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