Children as young as four may have been sexually abused as part of the deepening sexual abuse scandal that has shaken British football, police revealed on Wednesday
The historical child sex scandal has hit record proportions with nearly 3,500 people now under investigation over claims of abuse.
The number of suspects has more than doubled over the last 18 months, with 366 public figures now standing accused of ‘non-recent’ child sex offenses. In sports alone the number has risen threefold since last November, after allegations of abuse in football academies and junior league teams exploded.
Statistics released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) as part of Operation Hydrant show that while in May 2015 there were 1,433 suspects listed, the number had risen dramatically to 3,469 by December 2016. The number of people identified as victims stands at 3,531, with 74 percent of those who had come forward being men.
Football allegations worse than thought
Between November and December this year the number of sports organizations investigated by the police rose from 26 to 74 due to several former footballers coming forward with claims of abuse as young children.
A wave of complaints hit the police after Andy Woodward – a former professional at Bury and Sheffield United – waived his anonymity to openly talk about his alleged serial rape by youth coach and convicted pedophile Barry Bennell.
According to the NPCC there are now 429 identified victims in the world of sports, nearly all of whom are men. The police believe that children as young as four might have fallen victim to pedophiles operating inside the sports industry, with the eldest survivors being 20 years old. A total of 155 people are being investigated in the world of sport alone.
“The numbers keep growing,” said Norfolk Police Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who is leading the child abuse case for the NPCC. “We are dealing with some of the most complex investigations you can imagine. We are dealing with incredibly sensitive matters, sometimes in very high profile cases and of course all those factors create a huge challenge for the service.”
Bailey added that the police are “ensuring an efficient and effective service-wide approach to investigating allegations, removing the potential for duplication and enabling the timely and effective sharing of intelligence and information between forces.
“We are also liaising closely with the Football Association to ensure all relevant information they hold is shared to inform investigations moving forward.
“We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously. Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward. When allegations are reported it enables police to assess whether there are current safeguarding risks and ensure that appropriate action is being taken to prevent children being abused today.”