HMA v James McCafferty

At the High Court in Edinburgh today, 14 May 2019, Lord Beckett sentenced James McCafferty to six years and nine months’ imprisonment after the accused pled guilty to historical child sex offences.

On sentencing, Lord Beckett made the following statement in court:

“James McCaferty, I take account of all that has been said in mitigation. I note your age and take account of what I have been told about your state of health.

“I have taken account of your apology and expression of contrition but that can only go so far given the harm which you have caused. I will make an allowance for your having pled guilty at a relatively early stage so that none of the complainers have had to give evidence.

“I note that when you were coaching boys in the various capacities described, you have been portrayed as being physically intimidating and an overpowering personality which you used to achieve your depraved objectives.

“You took advantage of your position of trust as a football coach to groom and then sexually abuse boys who played for your teams.

You were adept at identifying the circumstances of different boys so that you could manipulate them, and in some cases their parents, in a variety of ways. All of this was done to facilitate your sexually abusing children.

“Ten complainers are named in this indictment. Your offending was carried on between 1972 and 1996. For many of the complainers the sexual abuse you inflicted on them was repeated regularly over a number of years.

“From seven impact statements which I have read and considered carefully, I have learned of the serious and lasting effects of your prolonged course of criminal conduct.

“Careers did not reach their full potential, some were cut short and lives have been seriously blighted. Many of those that you abused have suffered from enduring anxiety and depression caused by what you did.

“Conduct of this kind has a wider effect which is corrupting and socially corrosive. It has the potential to undermine the trust which people place in youth football and sports clubs. It may discourage children from joining clubs and talented coaches from leading them.

“Children being physically active and engaging in team sport is a social good which should be cherished, promoted and protected. The courts must do what they can to seek to eradicate the sexual abuse of children engaged in sport.

 “It is necessary to punish you, to seek to deter you and others who would behave in this way and to mark society’s disapproval of such a prolonged course of sexual offending against children committed in breach of the trust placed in you by aspiring young footballers and their families.

“Given some relatively recent convictions of a similar nature, protection of the public remains a relevant consideration in your case.

“I will impose one sentence to cover all of the charges. Having regard to the whole circumstances, an appropriate sentence would be imprisonment for nine years.

“I do not consider your pleas of guilty to have been tendered at the first opportunity. In the normal course of events the case would have by now been indicted to a preliminary hearing. 

“However, there is value in your having pled guilty in circumstances whereby a trial was never fixed and no-one had to give evidence. Accordingly, you will go to prison for six years and nine months, backdated to 25 October 2018.

“I certify that you have been convicted of sexual offences within the scope of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. You will be subject to notification requirements, commonly known as being put on the sex offender’s register, indefinitely.

“I direct the clerk of court to intimate details of your convictions to the Scottish Ministers so that they can determine if you should be included on the list of persons unsuitable to work with children.”