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You brought shame on one of Britain's greatest clubs; Sheriff's anger as Celtic boys pervert is jailed.

JIM TORBETT, the man who shamed Celtic by abusing starry-eyed boy footballers, was beginning a two-year prison term last night.

The founder of Celtic Boys' Club sat in the dock, head bowed, as Sheriff Margaret Gimblett passed sentence.

She told him: "These children were football-mad with stars in their eyes, and perhaps hoping to kick their way to the stars.

"You knew that, and you betrayed that trust.

"You have brought anguish and distress on your victims and brought shame and dishonour to Celtic Boys' Club and indirectly to Celtic FC, one of the greatest clubs in Britain - some might say the greatest."

Millionaire businessman Torbett, 51, was exposed as a child molester by a series of award-winning Daily Record articles in August 1996.

For his victims, the prison sentence ended a near 30-year wait for justice.

One of them, former Scotland striker Alan Brazil, said: "I am grateful he is where he should be - behind bars. It has been a long time coming, but at last he has got his just desserts."

Another victim, cabbie David Gordon, 38, was at Glasgow Sheriff Court to see Torbett jailed.

He said: "I am glad he is a convicted paedophile.

"The sentence was unimportant. It is just a relief that after all these years he has been punished."

The third teenage star Torbett was convicted of abusing, James McGrory, said even a 10-year term, would not have ended his victims' pain.

Supermarket manager Mr McGrory, now 44, added: "I take no pleasure from the sentence. But it was appropriate, if only as a warning to other predators.

"Hopefully, adequate safeguards now exist within every club to ensure similar incidents never arise."

At his trial earlier this month, Torbett branded his victims liars and insisted he never touched any of them.

But he was convicted on three counts of shameless indecency and will be put on the register of sex offenders.

Torbett preyed on boys he coached after inviting them to his flat in Sighthill, Glasgow.

Mr Brazil, now a Sky Sports commentator, told the trial Torbett grabbed his hand and forced him to fondle him through his trousers.

He never returned to the flat, and was never sure if rebuffing Torbett had anything to do with Celtic FC refusing to sign him after he scored a record 62 goals that season.

Mr Gordon described one groping incident at the flat, and said he quit football for good after Torbett made an indecent suggestion to him during a second visit.

Mr McGrory said Torbett groped him while giving him lifts from training in his van. The abuse continued for two years, and he was molested in cinemas, cafes and the Sighthill flat.

Torbett also persuaded Mr McGrory to spend nights in bed with him, and masturbation took place.

Mr McGrory told his wife of the abuse after reading the Record's expose of Torbett. He phoned Celtic FC, who advised him to go to the police.

The other victims also broke years of silence to relive their ordeals.

Torbett abused another starlet, John McCluskey, now 38. But the court could not hear his case because the offences happened on a trip to Norway.

Mr McCluskey said: "He is at last paying for what he did to me and all the others.

"I feel free of the nightmares that have haunted me for so long."

Celtic chief executive Fergus McCann said: "It is a good thing for all concerned that this matter has been brought to a conclusion."

The club is reconsidering its links with Torbett's business, The Trophy Centre, which supplies gifts and memorabilia to Celtic FC. Former Celtic directors Jack McGinn and Kevin Kelly are on the board.

Trophy Centre staff were among the supporters who surrounded Torbett at his trial and again yesterday.

Many wrote letters on his behalf. Sheriff Gimblett said some of the pleas for mercy reduced her to tears.

She revealed the letters stopped her sending Torbett to the High Court, where a far longer sentence could have been imposed.

Torbett's counsel, William McVicar, said his client had a difficult childhood, blighted by alcoholism in the family and the break-up of his parents' marriage, but was now a changed man.

He pleaded with the sheriff not to jail Torbett, saying the offences were "at the lower end of the scale".

Mr McVicar said Torbett, of Kelvinside, Glasgow, had endured torment and become a recluse because of the Press interest in his case, adding: "He has already been punished considerably."

Sheriff Gimblett told Torbett: "You were a highly-respected figure and no doubt still are. But these offences are totally unacceptable, and the public demands that the courts acknowledge this.

"Things were different 25 years ago and young boys did not talk about sex. They thought they would be laughed at by their peers.

"You were in a position of trust. Parents entrusted you with their children.

"Such conduct can never be tolerated. There can be no hiding place for people who abuse children."

Tony McGuinness, who quit recently as Celtic Boys' Club chairman, said later: "This was a dreadful betrayal of trust and cast an unfair shadow over many good, diligent coaches."

Another ex-chairman, Hugh Birt, added: "Perhaps the children of Glasgow will be safe now."
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Author:Ferguson, Iain
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 28, 1998
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