Club Statement: 24th March 2020

By SFC Media time Tue 24 Mar Club
Photo by James Bridle | St Mary's

Historic abuse update – Independent review by Barnardo’s.

Given the recent developments around the COVID-19 outbreak, the club would like to make everyone aware that the independent review being completed by Barnardo’s remains ongoing.

The Barnardo’s team will continue to speak with victims and survivors of the abuse carried out by Bob Higgins as well as other witnesses who are key to their review. In light of government guidance, there may be some impact on the face-to-face meetings that have been arranged with individuals, depending on their wishes to meet. However, the team will continue to work to complete all scheduled meetings or rearrange them to take place on the phone or at another suitable time. While the outbreak of Coronavirus may make completion of interviews more challenging, we wanted to take this opportunity to reassure everyone involved that this particularly important work remains ongoing. At this time we remain confident that Barnardo’s will have completed their report in line with the schedule that we have worked out with them.

In addition to completing the meetings that have already been scheduled, the club and the Barnardo’s review team remain keen to hear from any victims and survivors or other possible witnesses. If you would like to contact Barnardo’s in relation to their review please email them at [email protected]. Alternatively, if you wish to contact the club please email us at [email protected].

Engagement with the victims and survivors of abuse & settlement of legal claims

As we have also started to see some of the legal claims that victims and survivors have brought against the club settled, we felt that it might be appropriate and helpful to explain the steps we have taken to engage with each of those individuals, and, why we have chosen to settle the cases that have been brought against the club in connection with the truly awful experiences suffered. We would like to be very clear, that all legal claims brought against the club have been directed to our insurers. This has allowed all claims to be independently assessed and settled in the swiftest and least stressful way for each of the victims and survivors. The club has made no assessment of the damages payable to anyone who has brought a claim, we have not offered anyone any settlement ourselves and we have not influenced any process to assess damages that are payable to anyone. Each victim and survivor who has brought a claim against the club has been represented and advised throughout their claim by experienced and specialist abuse lawyers, who are members of Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL).

From the outset, and since learning of the possibility that Bob Higgins was involved in abuse during his time at the club, we have put helping the police and appropriate engagement with each of the victims and survivors at the heart of all of the work that we have done. We have sought to deal with all victims and survivors who have reached out to us as individuals and to show each of them the respect that they each deserve. In doing this, we hope that we can not only show the club to be a very different place today compared to the past, but also to rebuild some level of trust with each of them. We are committed to listening to the accounts of each of those individuals, should they wish to speak to us, and to providing whatever answers we can to each of them.

We hope that by engaging with everyone on a personal level, and offering the apologies that they are owed, we will be able to learn how we might be able to prevent anyone suffering any similar harm in the future. For this reason we have been careful to, quite correctly, split any legal claims process from engaging with each of the victims and survivors on a human level. We have always acknowledged the right of each victim or survivor to bring a claim for legal damages if they wish to do so. We have directed all victims and survivors to engage with ACAL so that they are each able to obtain the specialist and expert legal advice that they needed in order to be able to pursue a legal claim.

The club has dealt evenly and openly with all claims. By doing this we have provided the smoothest and fairest possible pathway, through a very difficult process, to everyone. Settlements have been achieved much more efficiently and in a far more caring way for each victim than if claims had gone to court hearings. Importantly, we have been really clear that we do not want anyone to enter into a non-disclosure agreement or to sign a gagging clause as part of any settlement. We have never requested anything like this because we strongly believe all victims and survivors have the right to speak of their experiences. We want to hear about these. Both the club and the independent review that is being conducted by Barnardo’s on our behalf remain available for any victim or survivor to speak to. If anyone wishes to speak to us or to Barnardo’s, please get in touch with us so that we can schedule an appropriate way to speak with you. Similarly, should anyone wish to bring a legal claim for damages for abuse suffered while at the club please contact ACAL and they will be able to provide initial advice to you. All claims will continue to be handled in the same way as this remains the fairest, most transparent and most appropriate way to work.

We remain keen to engage and support all of the victims and survivors of Bob Higgins, and where appropriate their families, as they see fit and to offer them the apology that they are owed from us. We are strongly committed to treating each those people fairly and with respect. We are deeply sorry for the treatment they suffered at the club in the 1980s and now need to make sure that their experiences are learned from so that they are never repeated.

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