Paedophile priest forged links with Celtic Boys Club

Times of London

May 2, 2020

By Marc Horne

An English-based paedophile had connections with Celtic Boys Club it has emerged, strengthening claims of collusion between a network of abusers.

Father Michael Spencer, a priest, teacher and football coach, used his position at Preston Catholic College, Lancashire, to abuse dozens of adolescent boys in the 1970s.

Now evidence has emerged which shows that Spencer, who died in 2000, forged a relationship with Celtic FC’s feeder club and brought young players to Glasgow. Four men who held senior roles with Celtic Boys Club have been convicted of sexual abuse, spanning four decades, in recent years.

Police Scotland is investigating claims that known abusers worked together to molest young footballers.

It came after an independent review — commissioned by the Scottish FA — received “substantive” new evidence of an organised abuse ring operated by paedophile coaches in Scotland and England.

Celtic View, Celtic FC’s official magazine, carried an article praising Spencer in August, 1975. It said he had been invited to Glasgow for a “friendly” match between Celtic Boys Club and his Preston Schoolboys under 15 team.

In 2012 Patrick Raggett, a former lawyer, was awarded £55,000 in damages for the years of abuse Spencer inflicted on him during his schooldays.

Lady Justice Swift at the High Court in London ruled Mr Raggett had been the victim of “insidious” abuse, stating: “Father Spencer took every opportunity to observe naked young boys and film them. He exploited his position to touch and fondle the boys for his own sexual satisfaction.”

Mr Raggett told The Times: “It seems inconceivable to me that Spencer and those responsible for abuse at Celtic Boys Club weren’t in collusion.”

His abuser filmed and photographed him naked on numerous occasions as well as taking shots of him in his football kit and swimming trunks.

Mr Ragget said: “Spencer was a Celtic fanatic and had an obsession with photography and filming. He used to wear a black tracksuit with a Celtic badge and would show cine footage of the Celtic Boys Club playing, which would bore us rigid. I also believe he was sharing naked footage of me with others.”

In 2004 John Cullen, who worked as the official photographer for Celtic View for almost 30 years, admitted taking indecent photographs of boys as young as 10. Cleaners found a black bag containing bundles of black and white images of naked and semi-naked boys in a store room at Celtic Park.

Glasgow sheriff court heard the cache had been hidden there for almost 20 years before the management was alerted, called in the police and sacked Cullen, who was given three years probation.

In 1976 Spencer’s conduct was deemed to be “unsatisfactory”, but he remained at the college until it closed in 1978 before being sent to Orkney.

The review into abuse in Scottish football, due to be published within weeks, is expected to name Gordon Neely, a former Rangers and Hibernian youth coach, as a prolific abuser who worked with other paedophiles in northwest England. Neely died of cancer in 2014.

Celtic FC has said that it is sorry that abuse took place but continues to insist that it was a separate entity to its feeder club.

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