The Crown Prosecution Service is being accused of making a “scandalous” decision not to bring charges against Barry Bennell three years before a group of former footballers publicly made allegations against him.
Bennell, 64, has been found guilty on 43 counts of sexual assault which occured while working for Crewe Alexandra and Manchester City.
However, in 2013 another former youth protege, David Lean, made complaints about him only to be told that despite there being sufficient evidence the CPS would not take the matter further.
Mr Lean, 50, told talkSPORT: “What they did that day was scandalous. They broke my heart. They could have quite easily taken me to a very dark place and I bitterly resent my treatment by the CPS.”
A CPS spokesperson told talkSPORT: “The original decision not to charge in this case was made because it was felt the public interest test was not met.”
Mr Lean however, insists his case met the criteria in the public interest test, including the suspect’s level of culpability and the impact on the victim.
The following is taken from the CPS website: “The greater the vulnerability of the victim, the more likely it is that a prosecution is required. This includes where a position of trust or authority exists between the suspect and victim.”
Mr Lean insists one of the reasons he came forward was to encourage other victims to do likewise.
“I told the CPS that there would be hundreds because boys do not come forward in their twenties. I told the police on numerous occasions that they needed to open an investigation. I asked to be put in front of the press, but was told explicitly that I couldn’t be. Nobody wanted to listen.”
A twist of fate then occured, without which the current case against Bennell may never have been brought before the courts.
One week after Mr Lean was told that Bennell would not be charged the National Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel was launched, giving victims the chance to appeal if they felt their case had not been handled correctly.
Mr Lean appealed, his appeal was upheld and Bennell was subsequently jailed for two years for abusing him.
In 2016, Mr Lean was still anonymous but Andy Woodward, who was aware of the case, waived his own anonymity to speak out, prompting a group of others to do the same and the current case to begin.
However, Mr Lean is not the only victim to feel agrieved by his treatment by the CPS.
In the 1990s Ian Ackley, who had been part of the Manchester United youth set up, accused Bennell of abusing him whilst he was a young player. He brought six charges against the former Crewe Alexandra coach but Bennell would only admit one.
Mr Ackley, now 49, was told that the rest were ‘laid on file’.
Therefore, when a group of victims accused Bennell of abusing them in 2016, Mr Ackley enquired as to whether his five oustanding charges could be included.
He told talkSPORT: “After asking a few pressing questions I found out that the prosecution and the defence made a deal [in the 1990s]. It was done in chambers and, when QCs make such deals, they can’t be undone. As a result, those charges are ‘dealt with’. It is something that the CPS and the police have never been able to explain to me.”
Mr Lean’s anger meanwhile, is even directed at the courts. Despite making clear that he did not want to be in the presence of Bennell or see what he now looks like he says he was left outside Chester Crown Court with his abuser.
“They allowed him to come and stand next to me and have a conversation with a court official over the top of my head. I couldn’t have been treated any worse.”
While Mr Lean saw Bennell answer his accusations in court, Ian Ackley was left without closure.
He said: “Getting Bennell convicted on this occasion is my bit of justice. To know that what we tried to do twenty years ago is now being realised is the only way I can get any closure out of it.”