Scottish police have been accused of “doing nothing” about an allegation of sexual abuse against a Rangers football scout based in Edinburgh’s Canongate.
In July 1992 former Rangers youth player, Darren Mixon, told a Lothian and Borders police officer that in 1984, when he was 16 years old, a scout called Harry Dunn had tried to rape him.
Despite this complaint, Dunn was allowed to remain a football scout in Edinburgh until 2010 and died without being brought to justice.
In his more than 30 year career, he worked with young players for Leicester, Rangers, Liverpool, Colchester and Chelsea and was accused of sexual abuse by eight boys.
Edinburgh-based football coach, Tam Smith, who reported concerns about Dunn several times, told The Ferret that the police’s failure to act faster was “unacceptable” and “unforgivable”. A rape survivors charity said the authorities failure to act was “shocking and appalling”.
In 2017 after sexual abuse in football became a UK-wide news story and a national investigation was launched, Dunn was charged with one incident of assault and sodomy and one of assault and attempted sodomy dating from the early eighties. He died later that year without facing trial.
Twenty-five years earlier, according to Tam Smith, Darren Mixon’s accusation of attempted rape was was made to a single Lothian and Borders police officer.
Smith, who encouraged Mixon to make the complaint, did not want to name the officer, who is believed to be dead, so as not to upset any family members.
The officer took notes while Mixon talked, Smith said, but neither he or Mixon ever heard anything more about any investigation.
Ten years later, Smith raised his concerns again after watching a BBC documentary series, Raploch Stories. It featured a young footballer from the Raploch area of Stirling having a trial with Harry Dunn for Chelsea.
On discovering Dunn was still at Chelsea, Smith said he definitely phoned Chelsea and the Scottish Football Association (SFA), and he thought he phoned Lothian and Borders police to raise his concerns. However, he said he heard nothing more from either the police or the SFA.
When he phoned Chelsea, Smith says he received a “hostile reaction” from the staff member he spoke to. After the phone call, he also wrote a letter to Chelsea to complain about Dunn visiting youth players at their homes.
The club’s then academy director, Gwyn Williams, replied attacking Smith for giving a Chelsea scout, who was not Dunn, the boy’s parents’ phone numbers. Smith said he got the sense that Chelsea staff were “closing ranks”.
Around the same time, Smith thought he also called the Lothian and Borders police again. He suspected this was what prompted the same police officer who had taken the 1992 complaint to send a fax to Chelsea in 2003 asking for Dunn’s contact details.
The fax, which was sent from St Leonard’s police station, said: “I believe Harry Dunn is a player-scout for the club in Scotland. I need to trace him as a potential witness and would be obliged if you could provide a current address for him.”
According to a report in July 2019 commissioned by Chelsea and written by judge, Charles Geekie, there was nothing in this fax to indicate that Harry Dunn was accused of rape or should not work with teenagers.
Geekie said there was no evidence the club acted on the fax or replied to the officer and there was no evidence the officer pursued it any further.
Commenting on the reasons for the police officer’s inaction, Smith said that an ex-colleague of the officer’s had told Smith the officer was an “avid Rangers fan” and his inaction may have been because he didn’t want to bring bad publicity to the club.
“I can’t believe someone would withhold information like that just because they are a fan of the club. It’s incredible,” Smith said, although he added that he could not be sure this was the reason.
Smith, who was a police officer himself until 1990, said there was less oversight in the police in the eighties and nineties than there was now and that sexual assaults were not prioritised.
Any institution that has made mistakes in the prevention of these crimes should hold their hands up and make a sincere and humble apology to the victims. Spokesperson, Survivors Trust
Rape survivors groups also criticised the police’s inaction. “We are disheartened to learn it took Darren Mixon 25 years to finally have charges brought against the man who had sexually abused him as a teenager,” said a spokesperson for the Survivors Trust.
“This case is particularly disturbing because we know that it takes a great deal of courage for victims of sexual abuse to approach the police and any other person of authority yet Darren Mixon had done the right thing and his allegations appear to have been completely dismissed or ignored.”
The spokesperson continued: “It is without doubt shocking and appalling to think this paedophile had been allowed the freedom to continue abusing other young people when this could have been prevented following the disclosure. Any institution that has made mistakes in the prevention of these crimes should hold their hands up and make a sincere and humble apology to the victims.”
Ally Fogg, chair of the national UK charity Men & Boys Coalition, argued that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are often hurt and traumatised, not just by their abusers, but by the authorities who failed them.
“We call upon governing bodies and statutory organisations to continue to face up to and learn from any previous failings, in order to improve their practices and policies, now and in the future,” he said.
Stuart Allardyce, national manager of Stop It Now! Scotland, said: “Authorities including sporting bodies have a duty of care, which in the past they haven’t always fulfilled. As a society we also need to be better at what happens once someone comes forward with a report.”
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “I can confirm that Police Scotland carried out a full investigation into reports of non recent child sexual abuse and a report was made to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
“We would ask anyone who has been the victim of abuse, or has information about potential abuse to contact us. We will listen and we will investigate and our first priority will be to ensure that there are no children at risk now.”
When asked why it took 25 years between Darren Mixon’s original complaint and charges being brought, why Mixon and Smith were not kept informed of the case’s progress and why Dunn’s employers do not appear to have been warned of the complaint, the spokesperson declined to comment.
If this case has raised painful memories for anyone affected by sexual abuse you can find free and confidential support by contacting the Survivors Trust information, advice and support service on 08088 010818 or by emailing email@example.com.