Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Celtic kitman abused boy on a weekly basis, court told

By John Cassidy

Former Celtic kitman James McCafferty sexually abused a young teenage footballer "in a calculated fashion time after time", a court heard yesterday.

The 72-year-old, formerly of Raby Street off the Ormeau Road in south Belfast, pleaded guilty in May this year to eight counts of sexual assault.

He had previously pleaded not guilty at arraignment, and the court heard his guilty plea came on the morning his jury trial was due to start last month.

Belfast Crown Court heard the offences took place on dates between December 2012 and 2015 at either the victim's home or in McCafferty's flat.

Judge Patricia Smyth heard that at the time of the offences McCafferty was aged between 66 and 68 and the complainant was aged 14-16. Prosecution lawyer David Russell said the victim's mother told police she got to know McCafferty when her son attended a football match when he was about eight years old.

The mother had described McCafferty as "providing a role model figure for her two boys who were very fond and very close to him".

Mr Russell said from the age of 13 the injured party was allowed to visit McCafferty at his Raby Street flat at least twice a week. In return for doing housework, McCafferty would pay for the boy's gym membership.

When police approached the teen he initially told detectives that he had "nothing to report" about McCafferty.

But after being told McCafferty had made admissions, the victim told police of two specific incidents of when he was 14. The first happened at McCaffety's flat where he sexually assaulted him. The second incident happened a few months later when McCafferty sexually assaulted him and who again told the defendant "no", but he continued to assault him.

During his police interviews, McCafferty said he sexually assaulted the boy "in a joking fashion", and continued with the assault even though the victim said he didn't want it to happen. He admitted that he knew the boy was aged between 14 and 15 at the time.

Describing the aggravating factors, Mr Russell told the court: "This offending took place over a prolonged three-year period, it was frequent and on a weekly basis. There is the age of the victim and the vulnerability of the victim and the impact it has had on the victim.

"There was a degree of premeditation which flows from the fact of the repeated offending. The accused was a trusted person within the family of the victim. He was a mature man who behaved in a calculated fashion time after time to sexually assault a child."

The prosecutor said that in mitigation, the court should take into account McCafferty's admissions of guilt and also his clear criminal record.

Defence barrister Patrick Taylor told the court that he accepted that the "frequency of the offending by McCafferty was an aggravating feature in the case".

He added: "He was a man that the injured party looked up to and respected. This defendant's actions have irrevocably changed the course of this injured party's development as a young man."

In a pre-sentence report, McCafferty admitted being "attracted to both sexes" but denied his behaviour was motivated by "sexual attraction", but described it as "messing about, a joke, a bit of fun" and denied pre-meditation and continues to deny that his motivation was for "sexual gratification".

Mr Taylor said that McCafferty had given assurances "that he will not offend in such a way again". The defence barrister said that he had received instructions from McCafferty to "offer an unreserved apology for the hurt he has caused".

Judge Patricia Smyth will pass sentence on August 13.

Belfast Telegraph

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