England

Abuse survivor taking Crewe Alexandra to court

Steve Walters Image copyright PA
Image caption Steve Walters said all he had "ever wanted was for Crewe to take responsibility for what they've done"

Ex-Crewe Alexandra player Steve Walters is taking the club to court after he says they told him he had waited too long to report sex abuse by paedophile coach Barry Bennell.

Bennell was jailed in 2018 for 30 years for assaulting 12 former players during his time as a youth coach at the League Two club and Manchester City.

Mr Walters said the club was "blaming" him for not coming forward soon enough.

Crewe said it was not appropriate to comment.

'Slap in the face'

Last year's sentence was Bennell's fourth for child abuse since 1994.

Dozens more victims have come forward since Andy Woodward, another former Crewe player, broke his silence on the abuse he suffered, in an interview with the Guardian in November 2016.

Mr Walters, 47, had hoped he could reach a settlement with the club but believes what he sees as Crewe's trying to deny liability on a technicality has left him with no option but to sue.

In a statement, he said: "This response is a slap in the face.

"All I've ever wanted was for Crewe to take responsibility for what they've done; the role they played in the abuse of so many children.

"They're blaming me for not coming forward soon enough. They say how much they regret the abuse that took place, yet, in the same breath, deny any responsibility for what happened to me."

Earlier this week, it emerged Crewe has admitted to a Football Association-commissioned inquiry that it did no background checks on Bennell before hiring him and encouraged him and other coaches to invite boys to stay overnight at their houses and take them on holidays.

Image caption Barry Bennell was jailed in 2018 for 30 years

Mr Walters said the club's lawyers had written to say there was "no reasonable explanation or justification" for him to have waited longer than the allowed three-year limit for a personal injury claim, although this limit is usually waived in child sexual abuse cases.

His lawyer Kim Harrison said it could "take years and sometimes even decades for victims of child sexual abuse to find the courage to speak out".

She said they would now take their fight to the High Court.

A spokesman for Crewe said: "This matter is being handled by the club's insurer's solicitors and remains the subject of ongoing legal proceedings.

"It is not therefore appropriate for the club to comment at this stage."

Follow BBC West Midlands on Facebook, on Twitter, and sign up for local news updates direct to your phone.

More on this story