Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Bob Higgins case: Child sex abuse retrials urged by commissioner

Bob Higgins Image copyright Solent News & Photo Agency
Image caption Bob Higgins was jailed for 24 years and three months for abusing young players

Retrials should be permitted in a wider range of child sex abuse cases, the Victims' Commissioner has said.

Dame Vera Baird said her proposal was prompted by the case of former football coach Bob Higgins, who was jailed for indecently assaulting 24 boys.

Six other complainants were told their allegations were not "serious" enough to be tried for a second time.

The commissioner said qualifying offences should include "non-penetrative sexual abuse of children".

Higgins was jailed for 24 years and three months in June for abusing young players at Southampton FC and Peterborough United between 1971 and 1996.

He was previously acquitted of charges against six complainants in 1992.

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Media captionEx-footballer Dean Radford told the Victoria Derbyshire programme in May there had been "no justice" for him

One of the six men, Dean Radford, said Higgins' conviction had given him "no closure at all".

"I don't want to have to live with this inside me any more, thinking he's got away with it. It's not justice for me.

"Any normal person on the street can see that any child abuse should be deemed serious enough."

Image caption Dame Vera Baird said the list of offences qualifying for retrials should be expanded

Dino Nocivelli, a lawyer for five of the men, said the proposed legal change would cover "inappropriate touching" but not offences involving indecent images of children or abuse of a position of trust.

"We don't want child abusers on the streets because of a legal technicality," he said.

In a letter to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, Dame Vera said "the terrible and long-term consequences of sexual offences committed against children" were becoming better understood.

The government-appointed commissioner said the "double jeopardy" principle, which stops people being tried twice for the same crime, did not apply in "serious cases" involving penetration.

However, she said retrials should also be allowed in less serious cases where there was "new and compelling evidence" and where a retrial would be in the public interest.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The double jeopardy rule exists to ensure that once justice is served, an acquitted defendant cannot be unnecessarily subjected to additional prosecutions."

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