Jurors in the trial of former football coach Barry Bennell have been told to put aside their “revulsion” for the convicted paedophile as they consider their verdicts.
In her closing speech on Tuesday, defence barrister Eleanor Laws QC told Liverpool Crown Court the 64-year-old had become a “sitting target” after admitting to child sexual offences in the 1990s.
She said: “It may be tempting, in light of what I have said to you, it may tempting – in particular if you have loved ones at home – to think, ‘well, who cares about getting it right, he’s a convicted paedophile’.”
Barry Bennell denies 48 offences of child sexual abuse
But she told the jurors to put their “understandable potential revulsion about him” to one side.
She added: “The defendant is a known target and he coached these boys.
“They know when making allegations, whether truthful or not, that they are making allegations against a convicted paedophile.”
She detailed compensation claims made by some of the complainants and contact they had had with solicitors.
The court heard one of the complainants, as well as two victims Bennell had previously pleaded guilty to abusing, had launched a civil action against Manchester City in March 2016.
Andy Woodward arrives at Liverpool Crown Court with partner Zelda Worthington
Ms Laws told the court Andy Woodward, who waived his anonymity to speak out about abuse by Bennell, had previously lied in a compensation claim which was turned down by Crewe Alexandra.
She said: “People who have been victims are all different and all behave in different ways.
“Some, as you know with Andrew Woodward, some lie in order to obtain money.”
She urged the jury to look “very carefully” at each of the 11 complainants in the case.
“We would say you can be sure there is no detail that any of the witnesses give that could only have come about or come to light as a result of being abused by Barry Bennell.”
She said there was publicity surrounding his guilty pleas to offences in the 1990s and a documentary was aired about him in 1997.
She said: “There has been a great deal of publicity and indeed a great deal of contact between complainants.”
Ms Laws told the jury Bennell’s time in prison for offences he admitted in the past had had a “profound effect” on him.
She said: “It’s an inescapable fact that the man we see on that screen is a different man to the man who was abusing those boys.”
Bennell denies 48 offences of child sexual abuse, alleged to have happened between 1979 and 1990, but the jury has been directed to return not guilty verdicts in respect of three counts.
Beginning his summing up on Tuesday afternoon, Recorder of Liverpool Judge Clement Goldstone QC told the jury of five men and seven women: “It is your task to consider and evaluate those arguments and the evidence coolly and dispassionately and, as both counsel have emphasised, without emotion, be it sympathy on the one hand or hostility on the other.”
The judge is due to continue his summing up on Wednesday.
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