Legal Liability v Moral Responsibility
I’ll be completely honest from the outset about this article. I’m not qualified to write with authority on this subject but will attempt to deliver an opinion based on what I’ve read, heard and seen over the years.
Let’s start with a couple of basic truths. Child Abuse in any form is unacceptable. That’s the first one. The Sexual Abuse of a child is the most depraved, disgusting act you could inflict on a child. That’s the second. If you have been the victim of abuse I offer my sympathies and hope you are able to live a fulfilling life free from any overriding emotional scars.
Celtic has a duty of care to all of its employees, always. It always has had. The association it had with Celtic Boys Club is too obvious and too intrinsic for it to be anything other than a recognisable working relationship. I accept there is no legal relationship but that doesn’t detract from Celtic as the lead in the partnership having an obligation to ensure the safety and security of any children who were associated with the Boys Club. Then as now.
It’s as clear as you like that Celtic Boys Club was an organised paedophilia ring. How much Celtic knew about what was happening at the Boys Club will be debated for a long, long time I‘m sure. I’m 54 years old, and for as long as I can remember these allegations around the Boys Club had been rumoured. Is it possible or plausible that the Board of Celtic did not hear them or know about them? It’s almost impossible. That these crimes occurred in a different era before the introduction of Child Wellbeing Officers and Child Protection Officers does not exclude Celtic from criticism. No matter which way you look at it someone at Celtic must have known what was going on. Even back then there was right and wrong!
An unsavoury truth is it was different times; there wasn’t the same public awareness of the unacceptability of it. We were still belting kids in school in the early 80s, an acceptable form of abuse then! Growing up around Govan I know of 1 or 2 people who were allegedly involved in the abuse of kids and 1 who definitely was involved. As a group of kids we would talk about these people and make sure you were never alone around them. But that was it, you never told your Mum or Dad about them because they wouldn’t let you out to play. Different times indeed. Nowadays we control our kids’ movements, they all have mobile phones. We need to know where they are, at all times. It sometimes seems ridiculous but it is necessary. In this age of immediate news we are only too aware of things happening on the other side of the world, as they are happening. This increases our personal fears as we watch real-life dramas unfold before our very eyes. Remember Holly and Jessica in Soham, the hunt for them, the capture of the killer all played out live before our disbelieving eyes? Those poor little girls were murdered by the school janitor and his girlfriend provided an alibi for him. People the little girls knew and trusted. These are our fears for our kids, grandkids, friends’ kids, any kid.
I help run an Under 15 team my son plays in. I’ve been involved for about 4 years now. Child Wellbeing and Protection is EVERYTHING. We now have levels of access to kids, disclosure before you can work with or coach them, all kinds of courses to complete before you entrust your kid to us as strangers. You can’t just turn up and run a team like in the old days. You need to be able to prove you can be trusted. It’s impossible to do so but there are procedures to make it harder to put yourself in a position of trust. And you do everything in your power to do things right, to keep yourself above reproach. You don’t ever compromise yourself in any way. You can’t give a boy a lift to the game if you’re on your own. You can’t leave yourself alone in a changing room with a boy who’s late for the game. Really simple everyday things become suspicious in your own mind as you assess what’s right and what’s wrong just to make sure no allegations can be made against you. It’s a shame but we must protect our children by first protecting ourselves. We must! And it works, but it always did work. It was just that there were individuals who exploited people and systems. They’re still out there, but hopefully it’s becoming harder for them to succeed.
The crimes of Torbert (twice convicted for offences against a total of 6 boys), Cairney (convicted of 9 assaults on numerous boys) and McCafferty (convicted of sexual abuse of 10 boys) are disgusting beyond comprehension. These people were all working at the Boys Club. A fourth man Gerald King, a teacher from Glasgow was convicted of sexual abuse of 4 boys and a girl. He worked with Torbett at his Trophy Centre business. All of the convictions were for historical crimes. None of these people were reported to the Police by Celtic FC. That these crimes occurred in a different era before the introduction of Child Wellbeing Officers and Child Protection Officers does not exclude Celtic from criticism. No matter which way you look at it someone at Celtic must have known what was going on. And herein lies the problem in which Celtic find themselves pulled between a moral and a legal dilemma.
Celtic would surely be able to afford the best legal defence team to ensure any perceived liability was unproven. And rightly so, if they have no legal responsibility why would they accept it? They couldn’t. Celtic can’t. To do so would be an admission of guilt that doesn’t exist. So what, then? Assume moral liability? Yes!
Moral Liabilty comes after you have failed in your Moral Obligation. This is now Celtic’s only recourse and it is sad that they haven’t yet taken proper steps to ensure those affected by the crimes of the convicted monsters. Any offer of support to victims- and not necessarily financial- would have been the right starting point towards amends.
To offer counselling would have been a good starting point. To attempt to ascertain how many people were involved, both guilty and innocent, would have been another, financial help if necessary, legal support to claim due compensation. Any of these would have put Celtic in the driving seat; instead we’ve ducked and dived behind the Legal Liability and we’re now going to have to find a way out that doesn’t compromise our Legal or Moral position. We’re between a rock and a hard place.
Celtic have changed the way they operate regarding Boys’ Football and recruitment so there are now safeguards in place that are designed to offer maximum protection for kids. Also, it’s been said that Celtic have already instigated an independent review of the allegations against the Boys Club.
After watching the CH4 Alex Thomson reports I would doubt this to be the case. But this is probably a good time to start one. We need to be proactive NOW to ensure the Club is not further besmirched. The allegations against Celtic are real. We need to take them seriously.
The above guest article is by McCaff. Should you feel like sending in an article yourself we would be happy to publish and the email is firstname.lastname@example.org