A Court has heard that allegations of sexual abuse against former professional football coach Bob Higgins are “false memories or lies”. Mr Higgins, 65, has been charged with 50 counts of indecent assault against teenage boys. He denies all of the allegations against him.
His barrister Alistair MacDonald QC alleged that prosecutors had “dredged up” historical charges against Higgins after allowing a “fog of delay… to obscure the view”. Referring to some of the allegations, Mr MacDonald said showering with trainees was “ordinary behaviour” for coaches at that time.
Higgins’ offences are alleged to have taken place between 1971 and 1996. Most of the 24 alleged victims are former trainees at Southampton and Peterborough United.
In his closing speech at Winchester Crown Court, Mr MacDonald said the eight-week trial had been a “monster of the prosecution’s making”.
“Every conceivable touch, however slight, however accidental, has been thrown into the mix… with the clear intention that mud sticks,” the barrister said.
He said the prosecution had relied on evidence from a previous trial in the early 1990s, which had ended with Mr Higgins’ acquittal. It had also resurrected allegations which prosecutors had not proceeded with in 2013, he told the jury.
Referring to some of the allegations, he said Mr Higgins’ soap-water massages for the boys were “completely above board”. Mr MacDonald also said Mr Higgins denied being “turned on” by the massages, contrary to the prosecution’s claims.
Prosecutor Adam Feest QC said Mr Higgins used his power as a “successful and well-respected coach” to “deliberately manipulate” trainees, who regarded him as “god-like” and a “kingmaker”.
The court previously heard the case arose from calls made to a helpline set up by the NSPCC to deal with abuse in football.
Summing up, Judge Jonathan Fuller QC said Mr Higgins had been the “gatekeeper” to boys who dreamed of a career in football.
The judge said many of the allegations against Mr Higgins had similar features, including locations and a “degree of influence or control” over the alleged victims.
He said the jury should consider whether witnesses were truly independent of each other, lying or “otherwise unreliable”.
The trial continues.
If you have been the victim of child abuse, our Child Abuse Lawyers are here to provide support and guidance at a very difficult time. Please contact the Abuse Team on our dedicated Freephone number 0800 9555 094 or request a call back and one of our specialist Child Abuse Lawyers will be happy to discuss your situation in confidence.