Football child sex probe in Northern Ireland ‘must not damage innocent people’

Three vehicles were involved in the incident.
Three vehicles were involved in the incident.

Any investigation into allegations of child sex abuse at football clubs in NI must be carried out without persecuting innocent people, according to MP Gregory Campbell.

Mr Campbell said a rigorous investigation must take place after the PSNI confirmed yesterday they were looking at historic allegations of child sex abuse linked to clubs here.

MP Gregory Campbell has call for a rigorous investigation into alleged child sex abuse at Northern Ireland football clubs without persecuting innocent people. Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons

MP Gregory Campbell has call for a rigorous investigation into alleged child sex abuse at Northern Ireland football clubs without persecuting innocent people. Photo by Aaron McCracken/Harrisons

However he warned investigators to heed the mistakes made during Operation Yewtree “where a significant number of innocent people had their reputations seriously damaged when they were wrongly implicated”.

A police spokesperson confirmed yesterday: “We have had a very small number of allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse linked to football clubs. We work closely with all of the sporting bodies to ensure effective safeguarding is in place.”

The Irish FA said it “will work fully with the police and relevant authorities on any allegations of abuse linked to football in Northern Ireland”.

The association encouraged anyone involved in football that has suffered abuse to call the NSPCC football abuse hotline on 0800 023 2642.

Reacting to the allegations, Mr Campbell said: “Sports clubs, including the many football clubs in Northern Ireland are run largely by volunteers who give of their time freely and provide a very valuable service to the community.

“It is important that allegations are properly and fully investigated so that perpetrators are brought to justice. It is obviously important that clubs have proper processes in place to ensure they are safe places for our young people.

“That full and rigorous investigation must avoid some of the failures of previous investigations, such as that after the Jimmy Savile scandal was uncovered, where a significant number of innocent people had their reputations seriously damaged when they were wrongly implicated.”

NI Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said: “This announcement is a reminder for organisations who work with children, on the importance of having robust and up to date child protection policies and procedures in place, and to ensure that relevant support and checks are in place for all those who work with young people.”

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “It’s vital that victims feel able to come forward about abuse, whether it is going on now or happened in the past.

“Revelations in recent weeks demonstrate that those who speak out about abuse will be listened to, supported and taken seriously.

“Reports of non-recent abuse can help organisations to learn lessons and take action to protect children now.”