Bob Higgins has been jailed for 24 Years for abusing young footballers

Former Southampton FC coach Bob Higgins was arrested after being convicted of sexually abusing 24 students over a 25-year period.

Higgins was arrested for 24 years and three months. He did not show emotion when the sentence was delivered.

Judge Peter Crabtree said that Higgins was a "cunning and manipulative" predator who abused his trusted position as a respected trainer.

Crabtree said he had the key to boys' dream of becoming professional footballers. They idolized Higgins and would do anything to please him. He
 highlighted how Higgins had isolated many boys from their homes and families, making it easier to abuse them.

The judge said the victims had a real and lasting impact. Some suffered "serious psychological damage."

He told Higgins: "Their victims have shown great bravery and dignity," adding, "Most felt ashamed and ashamed. Some have slipped into periods of
alcoholic depression and mental illness. " The judge said Higgins had shown "no spurt of remorse" and said he would be barred from working with
 children any more.

Many of his victims, now middle-aged men, sat in the public gallery at Winchester's Crown Court while Higgins, who also trained young players at
 Peterborough United, was sentenced.

The judge praised the dignity with which the victims behaved in describing the decades of trauma they suffered after being treated and abused by
 Higgins.

Victim after victim testified that they suffered decades of mental health problems because of Higgins' crimes and expressed anger, shame and guilt
 over what happened to them.

Some told the court that they tried to kill themselves or turned to drinking and using drugs to try to eliminate abuse. Many have said that they have
struggled over the years with flashbacks, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and problems with personal relationships. Many went on
 to have good careers in football, but some said they missed the chance to realize their potential because of Higgins.

"The FA did not stop you": the long road to justice for the abuse victims of Bob Higgins

During the sentencing hearing, a victim criticized FA and Southampton FC for their treatment of Higgins, 66. He put the issues to court: "Where were
Southampton? Where were the FAs? Where were his due diligence and safeguard policies? They had a duty of care, a responsibility.

Three players have waived their right to life anonymity. Reading his statement of impact victim in court, former Peterborough youth team star Dion Raitt
 said that Higgins was ill and had "brainwashed" him. "I was trapped in your world 24/7 with no chance to escape," he told Higgins.

"I thought you were a god," he said. "You are a pure evil, a false prophet, a wolf in sheepskin. You took my dream away and replaced it with a living nightmare.

Former Southampton FC player Anthony Connolly told the court that he met Higgins when he was 12 and said the coach had prepared his parents as well as him. "You
took off my childhood," he said.

Connolly said that the abuse created an "emptiness within me" full of "fear, anxiety and torment". He said he turned to drink to try to fend off fear and suffered
mental health problems.

"I hope Southampton FC and England have learned from their mistakes," he said. "I hope the proper safeguard is in place." He added, "Today is the beginning of a new
 chapter in our lives."

The third man to renounce his right to anonymity, Lee Smith, described Higgins as a "monster" who ruined the dreams of his victims for his own "sickly perverted
satisfaction."

Smith, also a former Southampton player, told Higgins that he could not hurt any more. "The football community is now a much safer place," he said.

Higgins, a married man and father of Southampton, was convicted of sexually abusing junior players after two tests. Southampton FC has issued an apology to the
victims.

Peterborough United FC offered an "unreserved apology" to all victims and survivors of abuse by Higgins.

The statement, released on Wednesday, said: "As a football club, we recognize and understand that some of the players under our care have been subjected to
 intolerable abuse and so the club feels very sorry."

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