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Former N.S. teacher sentenced to 15 years for decades-old child sex assaults

HALIFAX — A former Halifax-area teacher and hockey coach who sexually abused boys several decades ago was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison for what the judge described as a "catalogue of depraved predation.

HALIFAX — A former Halifax-area teacher and hockey coach who sexually abused boys several decades ago was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison for what the judge described as a "catalogue of depraved predation."

Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Jamie Campbell said there was no way to calculate the scope of harm caused to the victims of 67-year-old Michael Patrick McNutt. Campbell noted the victims had battled a range of issues since the assaults, including anger, depression, substance abuse, and broken relationships.

"Nothing that happens to Michael McNutt is ever going to restore what he took, fix what he broke, or ease the pain that he inflicted," Campbell told the courtroom. "The facts of this case are a catalogue of depraved predation. Michael McNutt was a sexual predator and pedophile."

McNutt pleaded guilty in June to 35 sex-related charges in connection to 34 victims who were abused during the 1970s and 1980s. He pleaded guilty to 10 charges of sexual assault, 20 charges of indecent assault and five counts of gross indecency.

The judge said while McNutt had done much in the intervening years to change the direction of his life, he has to live with the consequences of his actions.

"Michael McNutt at 67 is required to pay the high price for the crimes committed by the Michael McNutt of 27 or 37," Campbell said. "He's a changed person, but he's the same person. His past has come back to haunt him as his past has haunted the victims in this matter for decades."

On Monday, the Crown asked for a 15-year sentence while the defence requested between three and five years. The defence cited McNutt's poor health, his stated remorse and the fact he pleaded guilty early on in the court process, as justification for a more lenient sentence.

Campbell opted for the harsher sentence. "What we've come to know is how serious and long-lasting the consequences of sexual abuse are for the victims of those crimes," he said. "Sentences must reflect that."

Outside court, two of McNutt's victims, whose identities are protected by a publication ban, expressed satisfaction with the outcome. "I'm just glad it's finally coming to an end for a lot of people," said one of the men who described his experience as "torture."

"I've been an emotional wreck for over 30 years. It's been in and out of my life and it will be and I'm just hoping for some peace now."

The other man also expressed relief. "It tortured me for a long time since I was 10," he said. "I tried to push it out a lot of years — with drugs and alcohol — but I'm glad with today's outcome."

Campbell took more than one hour to read his decision to the courtroom. The judge recounted the details of all 35 of the charges against McNutt, saying it was important to speak to what had happened to each of the victims.

"He lured boys using his position as teacher or coach, plied them with alcohol and cigarettes and other favours and sexually abused them," said Campbell. "It is an unspeakable breach of trust against not only the victims but their families and their community."

According to the agreed statement of facts, McNutt held a permanent teaching position at Sir Robert Borden Junior High School between 1977 and 1983 but resigned in 1983 after "parental complaints regarding his behaviour with students."

He resumed teaching in 1985 as a substitute with the Halifax District School Board until police in 1994 received a sexual offence complaint against him.

From 1977 to 1994, McNutt was involved with several minor hockey, baseball and football teams and leagues. He was also involved with a local church.

Crown attorney Mark Heerema told reporters he hopes the sentence is seen as an encouraging sign by victims of childhood sexual violence.

"I hope what it tells victims ... is that our justice system, perhaps slowly, has come to understand what they have gone through and that the courts will take it seriously."

McNutt's lawyer, Colin Coady, said the outcome was not what his client had hoped for.

"I think the courts today clearly stated that people who choose to sexually assault children or commit abuse against children will face very significant and very severe consequences," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2020.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press