Celtic’s chief executive has dismissed criticism in the wake of the Boys’ Club abuse scandal as “unfair and misguided”.
Politicians had accused the Parkhead club of failing to do enough for victims after four boys’ club officials were convicted of abusing young players,
In his reply, Peter Lawwell said a lawyer had been making inquiries for two years but legal confidentiality meant the club could not yet discuss the issues in public.
He wrote to MSPs James Dornan and Adam Tomkins to say the club’s insurers appointed a lawyer “some time ago” who has been investigating historic abuse. However, Mr Lawwell added that due process meant Celtic could not discuss the investigation publicly and the politicians’ criticism was unfair.
Mr Tomkins, who is a lawyer, responded by saying there was no good reason for Celtic’s inquiries to be secret and said the victims were being forgotten.
He said: “Respecting the confidentiality of victims is one thing. Keeping under wraps even the fact that something is being investigated is another thing altogether.
“Having an unnamed lawyer secretly investigating a matter does nothing to help, guide or support the victims and their families.
“Nothing in Celtic’s letter undermines my belief these matters require to be independently investigated and that, if necessary, Celtic will have to establish and administer a compensation scheme for victims of abuse.”
A lawyer who represents survivors of abuse accused Celtic of attempting to wash their hands of them.
Patrick Maguire, a partner with Thompsons Solicitors, who represents more than two dozen men targeted by paedophiles linked to Celtic Boys’ Club said Lawwell’s letter is “too little, too late”.
He said: “The real question is what are they investigating because there is nothing to investigate. The police carried out investigations and the courts convicted four paedophiles in the ‘Celtic family’, to use the club’s language.
“Everything said publicly by Celtic is engineered towards a legal version of Pontius Pilot, effectively trying to wash their hands of responsibility.
“It’s time for action, and Celtic must follow the lead of Manchester City and set up a compensation fund.”
Four men connected to Celtic Boys’ Club were convicted recently of abusing young people.
Coach and kitman James McCafferty, 73, of Lisburn, Northern Ireland, was last month jailed for six years and nine months after pleading guilty to 11 sex offences against 10 victims from the 1970s onwards.
In February, former youth football manager Frank Cairney, 83, was jailed for four years for historical sex offences from his time running a church youth team and, later, Celtic Boys’ Club. The offences took place between 1965 and 1986.
Celtic Boys’ Club former chairman Gerald King was convicted of abusing four boys and a girl while working as a teacher in the 1980s. He was given a three-year probation order in January.
And in November last year Celtic Boys’ Club founder James Torbett was jailed for six years for what the court described as “depraved conduct” against three boys over an eight-year period in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr Maguire said the total sum paid to survivors of abuse could run into the tens of millions.
He said: “We would expect every claim to be valued on the impact on the survivors.”
Glasgow MSP James Dornan, a Celtic supporter whose son played for the boys’ club under Frank Cairney, wrote to Mr Lawwell two weeks ago to call on the club to compensate survivors of abuse by coaches.
He said: “I was disappointed that it’s an investigation by an insurance lawyer, which suggests Celtic are trying to look at it from the point of view of protecting their own position.
“What I would like to see now is an early outcome of this investigation.”
In his replies to the MSPs, Lawwell claimed legal processes meant the club was “constrained” in what it could say publicly, describing it as being “highly frustrating for all”.
He added: “Some time ago our insurers appointed a wholly independent and experienced lawyer who is investigating this matter.
“It would be quite inappropriate for us to be discussing highly sensitive and confidential legal matters in the media, and we will not do so, even if that means we come under criticism for following the due legal process.
“We respect any claimants’ rights and our advisers will communicate with them and their representatives directly in the proper manner, respecting their rights to confidentiality.”
Celtic will “ensure we continue to meet all our obligations”, Mr Lawwell said, adding: “We would stress that we regret the incidents took place and reiterate our sympathy for all victims who suffered abuse.”