Former Celtic Boys Club coach jailed for historical child abuse

A former football coach has been jailed for six years after being convicted of historical child sex offences.

James Torbett – who was involved in setting up Celtic Boys Club – abused his position of trust to sexually abuse three boys over eight years in the 1980s and 1990s.

A court heard how his “depraved conduct” blighted the lives of the youngsters he targeted.

Torbett, 71, known as Jim, was convicted following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The Crown Office confirmed he carried out the offences between 1986 and 1994, meeting two of his victims through the boys club and a third at a business Torbett had set up.

The victims, aged between five and 18, were abused at a number of locations.

Sending him to prison for six years, judge Lord Beckett told Torbett his conduct had a “substantial impact” on his victims even many years later.

He said: “Your involvement in setting up and organising the activities of youth football in Celtic Boys Club might in other circumstances have appeared public-spirited and commendable.

“However, what this case has shown is that you used the club as a front and a recruiting ground for boys who you could sexually abuse.

“The love which young boys have for the game of football, their competitive spirit, their dreams of playing professionally and perceived association with Celtic Football Club, which is a revered institution for a significant part of the population, gave you substantial power over the boys whom you coached.

“You groomed boys and contrived situations when you could abuse them.

“Yours was some of the most corrupting behaviour I have heard of in these courts.”

Lord Beckett also placed Torbett on the sex offenders register.

The court heard Torbett had past convictions for sexually abusing three boys in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for which he was jailed for two years in 1998.

Details of the judge’s sentencing statement were released by the Judicial Office for Scotland following the hearing.

It is understood the boys club was not formally affiliated with Celtic FC and Torbett was not an employee.

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Taylor, of the national child abuse investigation unit, said: “Torbett was a predator who used football to allow him access to young boys.

“These were boys who had a dream, they wanted to play professional football.

“Torbett was a man in a position of trust but he betrayed that trust.

“He preyed on these boys, he exploited their dreams and he subjected them to callous and depraved abuse.

“I have no doubt that he exerted control over the boys in his care and coerced them with promises and lies.

“Today’s verdict is a vindication for the boys who were targeted, exploited and abused by Torbett.

“As adults they have had the courage to speak out and to help bring Torbett to justice.”

Kenny Donnelly, procurator fiscal for sexual offences, said: “James Torbett engaged in predatory behaviour and committed these crimes after establishing himself as someone in a position of trust with responsibility for children.

“While his offending began more than 30 years ago, those who gave evidence should be commended for coming forward, reporting his offending and providing the basis for this prosecution.

“I hope that this case provides confidence to victims of sexual abuse that no matter how long ago they suffered abuse, action can and will be taken against their abusers and that our expert prosecutors will act with professionalism and respect to ensure that justice is done.”