Charities and a group of ex-footballers had campaigned for reform of double-jeopardy laws in England and Wales. A cross-party group of MPs and the victims’ commissioner had backed them but Justice Minister Robert Buckland said it would have “inevitably” led to calls for other crimes to be included.
Currently, only 29 “serious crimes” – including murder, rape and some class-A drug offences – allow for suspects to be tried more than once, where “strong and viable” new evidence has emerged. But the victims’ commissioner, Vera Baird, had wanted this extended to cover non-penetrative sexual abuse of children, prompted by the case of former football coach Bob Higgins who was jailed in June 2019 for indecently assaulting 24 boys – but six other complainants were told their allegations were not serious enough to be tried for a second time.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Adult Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse had also backed calls for change, following the case. Victims of sexual abuse have said they feel “desperately let down” after ministers refused to add child abuse to a list of serious crimes that can be retried if new evidence emerges.
In a letter seen by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, Mr Buckland told Ms Baird he had “reluctantly concluded” extending the law would “not be right” and said the maximum prison sentence for child sexual abuse was “substantially lower” than for the crimes already covered by double jeopardy and widening the law “would inevitably lead to demands for the inclusion of other offences” – in particular, “crimes of violence”. He added: “Ultimately, there is a risk that retrial might come to be regarded not as an extremely rare exception to the double-jeopardy rule but as a species of prosecution appeal”. One complainant described current double-jeopardy laws as a “slap in the face”.
Ex-Southampton FC youth footballer Dean Radford, one of the six men whose allegations against Higgins could not be retried, said he was “desperately disappointed”. “Any normal person on the street can see that any child abuse should be deemed serious enough [to be re-tried],” he said and added “This is just another example of the government sweeping it under the carpet because they don’t want to put the resources into it.”
Jordans Solicitors have a specialist team of lawyers that deal with child abuse compensation claims. We successfully represent numerous victims that have suffered sexual abuse whilst involved in various sporting activities. We are acting from clients who are victims of abuse by Bob Higgins.
If you have been a victim of child abuse and would like to speak to one of our specialist abuse lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in making a claim.