A CHARITY has praised the “incredible bravery” of the victims of sex offender football coach Bob Higgins.

It comes after the former Saints coach was convicted of sexually assaulting numerous ex-players when they were teenagers.

The 66-year-old was found guilty of 45 charges of indecent assault against teenage boys, following a trial at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Now a children’s protection charity has praised those who helped bring him to justice.

A spokesperson for the NSPCC said: “Higgins exploited his position to access and abuse young boys who idolised him – knowing he had the power to make or break their careers.

“His victims have shown incredible bravery in coming forward and this case shows that anyone who has suffered child sexual abuse will be listened to, regardless of how many years have passed.

Daily Echo:

“Safeguarding in sport has come a long way since the offences committed by Higgins, but more needs to be done.”

The charity, which campaigns for children’s rights in the UK, is also calling for a law change for youth workers.

The spokesperson added: “We want the government to extend position of trust laws, which would make it illegal for adults in certain professions to have sex with 16 and 17 year olds in their care, just like teachers and social workers.

“Our Close the Loophole campaign calls on government to extend these laws to sports coaches and youth leaders, to prevent adults from grooming children in their care, then initiating sex as soon as they turn 16.”

As previously reported, Higgins sexually touched and groped 24 victims, most of them trainees at Southampton FC and Peterborough United, between 1971 and 1996.

Daily Echo:

The trial was told how Higgins obtained “God-like” status, allowing his abuse to go unchecked.

He faced trial last year, but a retrial was ordered after jurors failed to reach verdicts on 48 counts of indecent assault.

Higgins will be sentenced next month.