Barry Bennell, the serial pedophile whose abuse of young boys rocked the world of British soccer, was described as “the devil incarnate” after being sentenced to 31 years in jail on Monday.
The 64-year-old former soccer coach, now known as Richard Jones, was sentenced for 50 counts of child sexual abuse against 12 boys between the ages of eight and 15 from 1979 to 1991.
During his summation, Judge Clement Goldstone QC told Liverpool Crown Court that Bennell's actions were “sheer evil.”
“Your behavior towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil.”
He added that Bennell had appeared to his victims as a god, adding: “In reality, you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”
Bennell was a 'monster'
As the clapping that met the sentencing subsided, victims and their families began to embrace at the conclusion of the six-week trial.
Monday marked the first time during the trial that Bennell — who had watched the proceedings via video link from prison, where he is receiving medical treatment — had come face to face with his victims.
Bennell sat and listened impassively as four victims read out impact statements, detailing how his abuse had wrecked their lives.
One victim told the court of Bennell: “That monster decided it was fun for him to use me as a sex toy, someone he could get his kicks from.”
Another victim said that the abuse had made him thinking of taking his own life.
“Not a day goes by without thinking about the abuse I suffered. I loved football and like most boys it was my dream to play professionally,” he said. “My dreams were shattered and I often think what could have been.”
The revelation of Bennell's crimes and the sheer scale of his abuse sent shockwaves through English soccer when the allegations burst into the public consciousness in November 2016.
A former youth team coach with Crewe Alexandra and a Manchester City junior scout, Bennell's influence spanned across the northwest of England.
But it was only after former player Andy Woodward broke his 30-year silence over how he was abused by Bennell during a 2016 interview with the Guardian that others began to come forward.
Speaking outside court after the sentence, Woodward, who had previously described Bennell as a “monster,” told reporters: “No sentence is long enough for that man and right to the death he didn't show any remorse or say sorry to anyone.
“I'm proud that I did speak out. If I hadn't have done, we all wouldn't be stood here now today.”
Another victim, Steve Walters, told reporters that Bennell had not shown “one ounce of remorse, not one shred of decency.”
“He is calculated, devious and scheming. He was then and he is now,” said Walters. “But he has finally been held to account for his horrific crimes against children.”