Celtic Diary Tuesday November 6: Torbett: The Correct Response

Celtic Diary Tuesday November 6: Torbett: The Correct Response

James Torbett has been sent to prison for six years after he was convicted of abusing children at Celtic Boys club.

Its the second time he has been convicted.

He also received a prison sentence in 1998 for similar offences.

Those are the facts.


There is no excuse for what Torbett did, but it is he, and he alone who has been convicted.


His first spell with the club was from 1966 to 1974. According to hearsay, he was forced to leave the club after allegations were made about his behaviour.

It is not clear to whom these allegations were made, or who made them.

According to the BBC, he returned in “about 1978 “, and remained at the club until a Daily Record story in 1996 led to charges and his initial conviction.

There remain a lot of unanswered questions.

The first concern is the welfare of those who were abused.

Despite Celtic FC having no de jure link to Celtic BC, there was indisputably a de facto link.

Celtic FC must make provision to offer counselling and support, confidentially, to those affected.

The club must make that move, and make that their official response.


Then comes the argument about who knew what and when.

This is more difficult.

What is unacceptable is the way the press are  linking names such as Jock Stein and Billy McNeill to Torbett. There are numerous examples today of images featuring all three.

These pictures imply that Celtic FC was fully aware of Torbetts activity. There are no allegations, merely implications.

However, Torbett was allowed back at the club despite being removed due to allegations of abuse.

Not convictions, allegations.

This is where Celtic FC made a massive error. They should have refused his re-admission, based on their previous suspicions.

What isn’t clear is if there was enough evidence available that would form the basis of a prosecution., or any victim prepared to be involved in a prosecution at that point.

Hindsight is absolutely useless in this instance, and what we know now cannot be used as evidence to form an opinion of  those at the club at the time.

But there still remains that question, the question of why he was allowed back when he was suspected of abuse ?

This may be where his relationship with Celtic directors is cause for concern. Did they allow him to convince them the allegations were without foundation ?

At this point, no one was prepared to go to the police on behalf of the victims, and none of the victims were, not surprisingly, prepared to go to the police.

Sexual predators are notorious for their controlling influence on their victims. If we consider how long it took for his victims to come forward, and they must be praised for the courage that took, we perhaps get an idea of how much control he had.

Torbett would have had little difficulty in presenting his own defence to the directors, which is not to excuse them, but may explain how he was allowed back.

After all, all he had to ask was who these accusers were, safe in the knowledge that none of them would dare speak out.

If we place ourselves in the boardroom at the time, its fairly easy to see how he was readmitted, but still incredibly difficult to see why.

Those involved at the time must present their reasons, and clarify exactly what went on behind closed doors.

It would have been better to err on the side of caution. There is no excuse for his readmission, however credible Torbetts argument may have seemed.

The good name of Jock Stein has been dragged through the mud by this entire affair, and that will continue to be the case.

It appears he was made aware of allegations, and acted to remove Torbett from the club. This theory, which is all it is, gains credence when one considers Torbett returned to the club after Stein had left…although the times and dates are somewhat unclear.

What is now clear is that Celtic FC now have an in house academy, so lessons have been learnt.

Everything that can be done to prevent further opportunities for abusers has been done.

The perpetrator is now in jail, although its unclear what has happened to two others who were arrested and charged last year.

Investigations are going on nationwide into other similar allegations within the game, and it must be stressed that it is much easier, whilst still incredibly difficult, for victims to come forward today than it was thirty, forty or even fifty years ago.

By offering support, Celtic could help other victims at other clubs to come forward, to help build stronger cases against those who have been in a position to abuse children, not only in football, but in other organisations where children were placed under the supervision of those who didn;t perhaps have their best interests at heart.

Its  still very difficult to form a case against those who have been accused, and if there are other predators still to be brought to account, then the victims must be encouraged to help serve justice.

At least then something good will emerge from this dark period on the clubs history.

We cannot change what has happened, but we can help those it happened to, not just at Celtic, but elsewhere.

There doesn’t appear to be a Celtic Boys Club any more, at least according to the web searches I’ve done.

In that sense, steps have been taken to prevent further abuse.


There are many other issues surrounding this matter, but first and foremost Celtic FC , the de facto partner of Celtic Boys club, must accept that they had a duty of care towards these children, and whilst they cannot be blamed for Torbetts actions, they must offer to help those affected.



The BBC deserve praise for the work they’ve done on this , no doubt they have learned from the experiences their organisation went through recently, with several high profile employees involved in similar abusive practices.

They have raised awareness about a serious and often hidden problem in society.

Celtic must also learn from this, and  take things a step further and act in the best interests of the victims, because its the right thing to do.