TVZ v Manchester City Football Club Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeMr Justice Johnson
Judgment Date10 January 2022
Neutral Citation[2022] EWHC 7 (QB)
Docket NumberCase Nos: QB-2017-00857, QB-2018-004708 QB-2018-004762, QB-2018-004763 QB-2018-004764, QB-2018-004765
CourtQueen's Bench Division
Between:
(1) TVZ
(2) JVF
(3) DDG
(4) FTS
(5) LDX
(6) EJP
(7) HFT
(8) KHT
Claimants
and
Manchester City Football Club Limited
Defendant

[2022] EWHC 7 (QB)

Before:

Mr Justice Johnson

Case Nos: QB-2017-00857, QB-2018-004708

QB-2018-004709, QB-2018-004749

QB-2018-004762, QB-2018-004763

QB-2018-004764, QB-2018-004765

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

James Counsell QC and Benjamin Bradley (instructed by Bolt Burdon Kemp) for the Claimants

Michael Kent QC and Nicholas Fewtrell (instructed by Keoghs LLP) for the Defendant

Hearing dates: 25 October 2021 – 10 December 2021

APPROVED JUDGMENT

Mr Justice Johnson
1

The claimants seek compensation for sexual abuse perpetrated by Barry Bennell (“Bennell”) in the early 1980s when they were aged between 10 and 14 and playing for football teams coached by Bennell. They say Bennell was working for the defendant (“MCFC”) and that it is liable for his conduct.

2

In each case the claimant is required to prove that Bennell abused him. Beyond that, the issues are:

(1) Whether the claim should be dismissed because it has been brought outside the 3-year time limit for personal injury claims (“limitation”) (paragraphs 163 – 218 below).

(2) If not, whether MCFC is responsible in law for the abuse (“vicarious liability”) (paragraphs 219 – 340 below).

(3) If so, the amount that should be paid by MCFC to the claimant (“quantum”) (paragraphs 341 – 567 below).

The claimants

3

I believe the claimants; they were abused by Bennell in the way they state. They each gave evidence about it in a detailed witness statement. They each gave oral evidence. Each was cross-examined. MCFC does not challenge their accounts of what Bennell did to them. Their accounts are consistent with each other and with other known facts. With two exceptions, their accounts are, broadly, internally consistent. In one case, the claimant initially denied that he had been abused when he provided a statement to the police in 1997. In another case the claimant understated the extent of the abuse when he first reported it to the police. In both cases there are credible and understandable reasons for the change in account.

4

Bennell has been convicted of offences against six of the claimants. Four of the claimants gave evidence in the criminal proceedings. Bennell accused them of lying. They were not. The jury believed them. Bennell has been convicted, on 5 separate occasions, of a total of 90 sexual offences against young boys. He has been sentenced to a total of 49 consecutive years in prison. He is currently serving a term of 34 years' imprisonment. He is now 68 years old. When he gave evidence, he said that he would die in prison.

5

Each of the claimants was a remarkable boy. Each is now a remarkable man. As a boy, each claimant was among the very best footballers of his year group in northwest England. Forty years later, their skill and character as young footballers are vividly remembered by their parents, teachers, team-mates, and others who gave evidence. Contemporaneous team and match photographs, match programmes, newspaper cuttings and letters from well-known clubs such as Arsenal (and, in one instance, from Bobby Robson, the then England manager) speak powerfully to their talent and potential. Each claimant may well have gone on to become a successful professional footballer. It is now impossible to know whether they would have achieved their dreams. Along with so much else, Bennell has robbed them, and their families, of finding out.

6

As men, they have each dealt with the destructive mental legacy of Bennell's depravity. They have shown immense courage. TVZ went on national television to reveal what had been going on. He waived his right to anonymity. He did so because he did not think he would otherwise be believed and Bennell might then escape justice. He may well have been right about that. He was determined to do everything he could to encourage others to come forward and to ensure that Bennell was prosecuted for the offences he committed. Other claimants also gave public accounts of what Bennell had done. It is because of their selfless bravery that Bennell is now in prison. If it were not for their courage, other boys may have been at risk of suffering in the same way. They have saved those boys from that fate. It has come at great personal cost. The evidence demonstrates that the process of disclosing the abuse has, in every case, caused the claimant great anguish and mental suffering. Many or all of the claimants now bitterly regret disclosing the abuse, because of the impact that has had on them.

Anonymity and reporting restrictions

7

The provisions of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992 apply to Bennell's offences. No matter relating to a victim whose identity has been anonymised in this judgment shall, during his lifetime, be included in any publication if it is likely to lead members of the public to identify that person as the victim of that offence. This prohibition applies unless waived or lifted in accordance with s3 of the 1992 Act. In addition, reporting restrictions are in place in relation to the identities of the claimants, members of their families, and certain other people connected with this case.

8

TVZ and KHT have previously given public accounts and waived their right to anonymity. Reporting restrictions in respect of their identities were put in place at the outset of these proceedings. After hearing representations from Mr Brian Farmer of the Press Association, and after hearing from their counsel, and (in the event) with the consent of TVZ and KHT, I amended those reporting restrictions in the course of the trial. Their names may be reported but only in respect of the evidence which was given by them orally at the trial. I have maintained their anonymity in this judgment to avoid the need to put some of the content into a confidential annex. This is not a perfect solution, but it was the preferred choice of TVZ and KHT and I consider that it strikes an appropriate balance between their rights to privacy, the principle of open justice, and freedom of expression.

9

The amount of information that is in the public domain creates a risk of jigsaw identification. I have withheld from this judgment biographical details that would unnecessarily increase that risk. In doing so, I have taken account of guidance produced by the President of the Family Division in December 2018 (Practice Guidance: Anonymisation and avoidance of the identification of children and the treatment of explicit descriptions of the sexual abuse of children in judgments intended for the public arena). I have taken account of the same guidance by limiting, to a general outline, the description of the abuse that was perpetrated by Bennell (and have sought to do so primarily by reference to the offences that are now contained in the Sexual Offences Act 2003). Detailed accounts are set out in the witness statements of the claimants. As I have said, I accept those accounts. It is unnecessary (and undesirable) to repeat them in this judgment.

The parties' cases

10

These are eight separate claims that have, for convenience, been heard together following detailed case management directions made by Lambert J in May 2020. There are eight separate sets of statements of case. There are differences in the way in which the individual cases are presented, including on the central question of vicarious liability. The differences in the statements of case were highlighted in opening submissions, but it has not been suggested that any party should be restricted by reference to the narrow differences between the individual statements of case.

11

The essential case that is advanced by the claimants is that Bennell was engaged by MCFC as a scout and coach, that in the course of those duties he ran feeder teams for MCFC, providing a source for future recruitment by MCFC, that each of the claimants played for one or more of these teams, and that in the course of his duties for MCFC Bennell abused each of the claimants. MCFC is therefore vicariously liable for Bennell's torts. Each claimant recognises that his claim was not started within the required time limit (which expired on his 21 st birthday). Each claimant says that it is equitable to disapply the time limit because he has a good reason for the delay and the trial can be fairly determined. Brief summary details of each pleaded case are:

Claimant

Period of abuse

Expiry of limitation

Claim form issued

Teams

Delay after expiry of limitation period

TVZ

1980–82

1990

2017

White Knowl, North West Derbyshire

28 years

JVF

1980–83

1989

2018

White Knowl

29 years

DDG

1982–85

1991

2017

North West Derbyshire, White Knowl, Adswood Amateurs

26 years

FTS

1982–84

1992

2018

North West Derbyshire, Midas, Glossop Juniors, Adswood Amateurs

27 years

LDX

1982–84

1992

2018

Pegasus, Midas, Adswood Amateurs, Glossop Juniors

27 years

EJP

1981–82

1990

2018

White Knowl

28 years

HFT

1980–85

1993

2018

Midas, Adswood Amateurs, Glossop Juniors

25 years

KHT

1983–85

1991

2017

Glossop Juniors, Midas, Adswood Amateurs

26 years

12

The pleaded cases of TVZ and JVF allege abuse dating back to 1979, but from all the evidence it is unlikely that the abuse started before 1980 (because it is unlikely that Bennell set up White Knowl before then). In their oral evidence TVZ and JVF were (unsurprisingly) unable to be definitive about the dates and accepted that it may have started later than their pleaded cases. I have adjusted the pleaded dates accordingly. There was also some variance between the pleaded cases and the evidence given by individual claimants (which I summarise below) as to the...

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