Alleged victim to take Hibs to court over sex abuse claims

Hibs team pic 1985-86''Gordon Neely is second from the right in second row (beside Tommy Craig)
Hibs team pic 1985-86''Gordon Neely is second from the right in second row (beside Tommy Craig)

A VICTIM of alleged sex abuse while a young footballer is to sue Hibs, the Evening News can reveal.

Former apprentice Jon Cleland says he was preyed on by late coach Gordon Neely while on the books of the Easter Road outfit.

His lawyers have started civil claims against the club as well as the Scottish Football Association after a damning review was published into sex claims spanning decades.

“Acting for Mr Cleland, we are pursuing claims jointly against Hibs and the SFA,” Thompsons Solicitors partner Patrick McGuire said.

Mr McGuire described such joint claims as typical where more than one organisation shared responsibility “to varying degrees.”

He stressed such arrangements meant respondents could “share” any costs rather than meaning any double payday for his client.

Bosses at Hibs have now been urged to “come around the table” to discuss a settlement or end up in court, though Mr McGuire said it remains “too early to discuss specific sums.”

He added: “John was abused at the hands of their employee – they have to recognise their responsibility.

“They have to meet their legal responsibility to John and come to the negotiating table sooner rather than later.”

Mr Cleland revealed last year the “horrendous” abuse claims dating back to the early 1980s after his alleged attacker died in 2014.

He said he was subjected to 18 months of serious sexual abuse when he was 11.

Mr Cleland said confiding to his wife details of the abuse for the first time and the six-hour police interview had been “very traumatic” experiences.

Now 46, Mr Cleland has spoken about the shortfall in safeguards within the national game and called on the SFA to do more to protect children.

“They are responsible for making sure those coaching our children are people we can trust,” he said.

“I now wait to see if their words admitting their failings are backed up by action. I sincerely hope other survivors abused in Scottish football now feel able to come forward to have their voices heard.”

The Hampden-based organisation was criticised last week in a highly critical report into historical abuse claims within the sport.

It concluded that child protection in the national game is “not fit for purpose” after police recorded 300 crimes during an abuse inquiry.

Mr Cleland added: “The procedures that now have to be put in place that have to safeguard children is a must – simple as that.” He said grassroots football had been left open to exploitation by “really, really nasty people” and called for action to prevent any repeat.

The SFA declined to comment this week but chief executive Ian Maxwell has previously offered a “heartfelt apology” to those affected by abuse.

Nobody from Hibernian was available for comment last night as the club travelled to Greece to take on Asteras Tripoli in the Europa League.