Nova Scotia

Former Halifax teacher gets 15 years in prison for historical sex offences

A former Halifax-area school teacher and coach who pleaded guilty to dozens of historical sex charges involving 34 victims has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Justice Jamie Campbell delivered his decision in the case of Michael Patrick McNutt, 67, in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

Warning: this story contains details about sexual abuse

Michael McNutt sits in the lobby of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Tuesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

A former Halifax-area school teacher and coach who pleaded guilty to dozens of historical sex charges involving 34 victims has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Justice Jamie Campbell delivered his decision in the case of Michael Patrick McNutt, 67, in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Tuesday morning.

"Michael McNutt has irreparably damaged the lives of so many people that it is hard to calculate or comprehend the scope of the harm that he has caused," Campbell said. 

The judge went through all of the separate offences. He said it was important not to think of the victims as just a group of 34 boys, but people who had suffered individually.

"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 said.

McNutt has irreparably damaged the lives of so many people, Campbell said. His victims have experienced depression, substance abuse, anger and broken relationships.

Nothing that happens to McNutt will repair what he has done, the judge said.

'Shame and guilt'

He quoted at length from one of the victim impact statements that was submitted in writing, but not read aloud in court. Campbell said the victim's words need to be heard.

"A child has no compass with which to navigate such turmoil," Campbell said.

"I was not emotionally mature enough to comprehend what had happened, and my role in the abuse. I just felt shame and guilt, like I was a bad person with a terrible secret."

Two of McNutt's victims were in court to hear the sentence imposed.

"I've been an emotional wreck for over 30 years," one of them said outside court to reporters.

"It's been in and out of my life and continually and it will be. But [I'm] just hoping for some peace now."

'It tortured me for a long time,' says victim

The names of the victims are protected by a publication ban.

"It tortured me for a long time, since I was 10, so almost 40 years," the other man told reporters.

"I tried to push it out a lot of years, decades, drugs and alcohol. But I'm glad with today's outcome."

Judge accepted Crown's recommendation 

The Crown and McNutt's lawyer made their sentencing recommendations on Monday.

Crown prosecutor Mark Heerema suggested McNutt serve 15 years in prison, while the defence asked for a sentence between three and five years.

The defence suggested McNutt was at much greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 in prison because of his pre-existing medical conditions, including diabetes, pancreatitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung condition.

The Crown argued that the coronavirus exists inside and outside of prisons and should not be a factor in sentencing.

Campbell said Tuesday if McNutt were to contract COVID-19 it could be lethal because of his medical problems, but that doesn't mean he should avoid a prison sentence.

Only one of McNutt's victims read a victim impact statement during Monday's hearing. Half a dozen victims filed written submissions, while the rest chose not to participate in the process at all.

Former teacher, coach and youth worker

McNutt was a teacher at Sir Robert Borden Junior High School in Dartmouth, N.S., between 1977 and 1983. According to the agreed statement of facts in this case, he was given the opportunity to resign in 1983 following complaints from parents.

However, by May 1985, McNutt was allowed back in the classroom as a substitute teacher. He continued in that position until 1994 when someone made a sexual offence complaint to police.

In addition to his work at the junior high, McNutt was also a coach for various baseball and hockey teams around Halifax. He was also a youth worker at St. Joseph's Church.

The statement details each of the cases against McNutt.

In many of them, he invited his victims to come to his home, where he plied them with beer and cigarettes. He also used coercion and threats to get the boys, who were between the ages of 10 and 15 at the time of the offences, to accept the abuse.

With files from Blair Rhodes

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