Former Celtic FC youth coach jailed for sexually abusing teenager

Former Celtic Football Club youth coach Jim McCafferty has been jailed after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a teenager in what a court heard he had regarded as a “bit of fun”.

The 72-year-old, formerly of Raby Street in south Belfast, pleaded guilty in May to eight charges of sexual offences against the same boy over a three-year period from December 2012-15.

McCafferty had previously pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea to guilty on the day of his trial.

On Monday McCafferty re-appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court for sentencing.

He walked to the dock with the aid of a zimmer-type walking device, wearing light coloured trousers and a grey cardigan.

McCafferty made little reaction as Judge Patricia Smyth sentenced him to three years and nine months.

He is set to spend half of his sentence in prison and half on licence.

The judge described the case as a “particularly complex sentencing exercise”, but said there was no dispute around the facts.

“You repeatedly sexually assaulted your victim for three years over the period from December 2012 – December 2015 when your victim was a young teenager aged 14-16, you on the other hand were a mature adult aged 66-68,” she said.

“You ingratiated yourself into your victim’s family, gaining first the trust of his mother who regarded you as a role model for her children.

“You abused trust placed in you by his family… assaulting him in your home and his home. The impact on your victim and his family has been significant.”

During sentencing the judge also spoke of health issues faced by McCafferty, included mobility problems following hip and knee replacements, heart illness and a history of suffering from anxiety and depression.

Judge Smyth also noted that McCafferty had not had an “easy” childhood, and had himself been the victim of sexual assaults over the period of a year when he was a young teenager.

“You said it had not had an impact on your life… it may explain in some part the lack of empathy you have shown to your victim.”

The judge went on to describe his expressions of remorse for his behaviour towards his victim as “superficial” and “disingenuous”, adding that McCafferty had only apologised to his victim because he had been advised to.

She said McCafferty had regarded his behaviour as “a bit of fun” for the teenager, adding: “You continue to hold that view.”

The judge said the pensioner’s behaviour had been an “outrageous betrayal of trust”.

McCafferty will remain on the sexual offenders register for an “indefinite period” and has been banned from working with children in any capacity.

The pensioner first confessed to abusing his victim after being approached by Daily Mirror journalist Jilly Beattie in December 2016.

McCafferty lived in Glasgow before moving to Northern Ireland in recent years.

Speaking outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Anne Marks (pictured) welcomed the conclusion of the case and also encouraged other victims of sexual abuse to come forward.

She went on to read a statement on behalf of the victim’s mother.

“It has been in incredibly tough two years for my family, something no mother should ever have to go through.

“My son is kind and caring and compassionate. He is a young man and this will have an impact on him for the rest of his life.

“However, although extremely harrowing, he knows taking this difficult decision to report this abuse was the right choice for him to make and today we have seen his abuser brought to justice.

“My son was treated with sensitivity, patience and respect by the investigating officers, and I would encourage anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse to report it to the police.”

Detective Chief Inspector Marks added her thanks to the victim and his family for coming forward.

A spokesman for the NSPCC Northern Ireland said: “McCafferty carried out a series of appalling attacks on his young victim and is now rightly behind bars.

“Sexual abuse ruins childhoods with the effects lasting long into adulthood and we hope the child assaulted by McCafferty continues to receive support to recover from his ordeal.

“We would urge survivors of sexual abuse to come forward in the knowledge that their voices will be heard. Anyone concerned about a child’s welfare can contact the NSPCC for help and advice.”

Anyone concerned about a child or young person can call the NSPCC Helpline 24/7 on 0808 800 5000. Help for children and young people is available through Childline on 0800 1111.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Rebecca Black / PA Wire.