A former Halifax-area teacher has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for sexually abusing 34 youths over several decades.
Justice Jamie Campbell delivered the ruling against Michael McNutt, on Tuesday, saying there was no way to comprehend the scope of the harm caused by the 67-year-old former hockey coach.
Campbell said nothing can restore what he took from each of the victims.
Read more: 2 victims of Michael McNutt’s victims speak
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.”
The sentence follows a recommendation from Crown prosecutors. The defence asked for a sentence between three and five years.
McNutt pleaded guilty to 35 counts in June: 10 charges of sexual assault; 20 charges of indecent assault; and five counts of gross indecency. All were linked to incidents during the 1970s and 1980s.
McNutt will be 82 when the sentence expires.
The names and identities of those victims are protected under a publication ban.
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.”
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.
With files from the Canadian Press’ Keith Doucette