An abuse survivor has accused the England and Wales Cricket Board of failing to protect him and “countless others” from a former Durham junior coach described as a “monster” by police.
Michael Strange, 63, was handed a two-year prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court on Thursday after admitting indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy in the 1990s, the fifth time he has been convicted for child sex offences.
Strange appeared via video link from prison, having been sentenced to 40 months in January 2022 after pleading guilty to two counts of indecent assault in November 2021.
That was the same month that the victim in this case came forward, having read media reports of Strange’s previous convictions.
In his victim personal statement, the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said he “struggled to understand” the abuse of power and trust, and was “disappointed” by the cricket authorities for not identifying Strange’s offending earlier.
He said they had failed to protect “me and countless other vulnerable children”.
“I hope safeguarding measures are constantly reviewed to prevent similar incidents in future,” he said.
The man added in his statement: “For over 20 years the actions and behaviour of Michael Strange has been an embarrassing secret.
“I felt disgust, shame and guilt, but never had the courage to speak to anyone until now.”
Prosecutor Neil Pallister said Strange approached the complainant, who was 15 at the time of the assault, saying he was a cricket scout and offering him the chance to play senior cricket at his club.
“This was a big step up from the children’s cricket the complainant had been playing and he was keen to take up the opportunity,” Mr Pallister said.
The court heard Strange befriended the teenager and his parents, and frequently offered lifts to and from training sessions.
On the night of the assault the victim had gone back to Strange’s house after a match and was waiting for his parents to pick him up when Strange put pornography on the television, it was said.
“The defendant was talking graphically about pornography and what he wanted to do to the complainant as he was touching him,” Mr Pallister said.
The ordeal lasted between 20 and 30 minutes until the teenager saw the headlights of his father’s car shining in the window, the court heard.
Strange told the victim to tell his parents they had been talking about cricket, Mr Pallister said.
“He said the incident has always lingered at the back of his mind for 20-plus years.
“When he saw news reports about previous wrongdoing by the defendant he thought he should come forward.”
The officer in charge of the case, Detective Constable Lisa Herron of Northumbria Police, said: “Strange, once revered as a ‘hero’ in cricket circles, is a dangerous predator who preyed on young boys under his tutorage in the most sickening of ways.
“He robbed multiple promising young cricket stars of their innocence. He is the definition of a monster.
“It has never been easy for any of his victims to speak out and to have to re-live that childhood trauma but I, on behalf of everyone at Northumbria Police, want to thank the victims who have bravely come forward. Thanks to your courage, Strange has remained behind bars and been exposed for the depraved beast he is.”
She added: “I want to urge any victim of sexual assault, abuse or rape to please speak out regardless of when it happened or who the perpetrator was because nobody should have to deal with abuse alone.
“We know how difficult it is to speak out and we promise we will support you in every way we can. We can offer support and guidance and put you in touch with specially trained Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) and introduce you to support networks.
“And, of course, we will do everything we can to seek justice for you. No one deserves to suffer.”
Strange entered a guilty plea to the indecent assault charge on August 9 at South Shields Magistrates’ Court, with the matter referred to crown court for sentencing.
The following day the ECB confirmed it would conduct an internally-led review of Strange’s offending. That followed calls from another of Strange’s victims for a wider review into abuse in cricket in an interview with the PA news agency in October last year.
Following Thursday’s sentencing, an ECB spokesperson said: “The thoughts of everyone at the ECB and within the game are with all the victims of Michael Strange and we applaud and commend their bravery in coming forwards. Everyone should be safe playing cricket.
“Michael Strange has not been involved in cricket since he was suspended from all cricket activity in May 2005, so the full scope of his crimes are only clear to us now. We are distraught that he was able to commit these crimes.
“The landscape of safeguarding has changed enormously in 18 years, but we have worked with statutory partners on this case and we have commenced an internally-led review to establish further information about the environment in which Strange committed his offences within cricket to inform best practice and to further develop ECB’s safeguarding strategy.”
In December 2022, the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit, which audits national governing bodies annually, concluded the ECB is meeting the unit’s safeguarding standards.
Strange was a coach affiliated to Durham County Cricket Club and coached at local clubs in the north-east.
Police started investigating Strange in 2005, however the first victim was not able to proceed with the complaint and it was not until 2011 when police were able to gather sufficient evidence to submit a case to the CPS and obtain charges that allowed for Strange to be convicted for the first time in 2012.
He has since been sentenced for historic child abuse offences linked to cricket in 2016, 2020, 2022 and now 2023.