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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

276 potential suspects and 741 victims identified in football child sex scandal

Written by Jennifer Cockerell

Police investigating football's child sex abuse scandal have identified 276 potential suspects and 741 victims.

Some 328 football clubs, spanning all tiers of the game from the Premier League down to amateur level, are involved in the inquiry, codenamed Operation Hydrant.

The latest figures from the investigation, being co-ordinated by the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC), mark a rise from the last update in April.

The number of victims previously stood at 560 and the number of potential suspects has risen from 252, the NPCC said.

The ages of the victims at the time of the abuse - 96% of whom are male - range from four to 20.

A hotline was set up to report abuse since the scandal broke late last year when a number of high-profile ex-footballers came forward to say they had been victims of sexual abuse as youngsters.

Police forces across the UK received an increased number of calls from victims and from people offering information.

The Football Association is carrying out an independent review into its handling of abuse allegations in the years before 2005.

While the vast majority of reports of abuse relate to football, 27 referrals involve other sports including basketball, rugby, gymnastics, martial arts, tennis, wrestling, golf, sailing, athletics, cricket and swimming.

The NPCC also published the operation's latest figures outside the world of sport, which show that the number of alleged suspects on the Operation Hydrant database is now 4,393, comprising 3,848 males, 374 females and 171 of unknown sex.

Of these, 356 suspects are classified as persons of public prominence (PPPs), with 154 from the worlds of TV, film or radio, 93 listed as politicians, 48 from the music industry and 26 from sport.

Nearly 500 of the suspects are now dead.

There are 2,146 institutions on the Operation Hydrant database, including 828 schools, 470 children's homes, 252 sports venues, 214 religious institutions and 95 health establishments.

NPCC lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey (pictured), who is leading the inquiry, said information received by police will be used to prevent more children being abused.

He said: "Allegations of non-recent child sexual abuse are complex, and often require specialist skills and knowledge, and can take time to progress. However, all allegations and information received by police forces across the country are being acted upon.

"We continue to urge anyone who may have been a victim of child sexual abuse to report it, if they are ready to do so, by dialling 101, or contacting the dedicated NSPCC helpline, regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place.

"We will listen and treat all reports sensitively and seriously.

"Anyone with any information regarding child sexual abuse is also urged to come forward."

An NSPCC spokesman said: "This lays bare some of the appalling abuse that thousands of children suffered in years gone by in the very places they should have been safe from harm, from children's homes to schools, churches and sports halls.

"Child abuse in our institutions or in any walk of life must be exposed, with those responsible brought to justice. We cannot return to a time when it was swept under the carpet and children did not speak up for fear they would not be believed.

"However, shockingly, we have no idea how many children are being abused today, as the information is not being recorded. We need a Government-led study on the current extent of child abuse, so that we know what is needed to get these children's lives back on track, and we avoid the mistakes of the past for current and future generations."

Children can contact the NSPCC's Childline service on 0800 11 11 while any adults worried about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. The NSPCC's dedicated football abuse helpline can be contacted on 0800 023 2642.

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