Northern Ireland news

Ex-Celtic kitman abused teen 'in calculated fashion time after time'

Jim McCafferty will be sentenced in August

FORMER Celtic kitman Jim McCafferty sexually abused a 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, admitted eight counts of sexual assault last month.

The offences took place between 2012 and 2015 at either the victim's home or McCafferty's flat, when he was aged between 66 and 68 and the boy 14-16.

Prosecution lawyer David Russell told Belfast Crown Court that in December 2016 a journalist spoke to McCafferty about an allegation he had sexually a young boy in Scotland and he admitted touching several boys while working as a coach and kitman.

"He also told the journalist that he had been involved with a boy, who he named, in Belfast where he had been living for the past seven years.''

The following day, McCafferty attended Musgrave police station.

Mr Russell said the victim's mother told how she got to know McCafferty when her son attended a football match when he was about eight and after moving to Northern Ireland, he became friendly with her family and would watch Champions League matches with her son in their home.

She described him as "providing a role model figure for her two boys who were very fond and very close to him''.

From the age of 13, the victim was allowed to visit McCafferty at his Raby Street flat at least twice a week. In return for doing housework, he would pay for the boy's gym membership.

When police approached the teenager, he told of two sexual assaults when he was 14 when had tried to tell McCafferty 'No'.

Mr Russell said he "admitted that he sexually touched the injured party on a number of occasions".

"He said it sometimes happened 'once a week... or once in a blue moon or maybe not at all'. He said he knew what he was doing was wrong, that he did not really obtain a sexual kick out of it, describing it as 'fun'.''

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.

"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."

Defence barrister Patrick Taylor told the court that McCafferty was orphaned as a child and brought up by his grandmother and had never married.

He played football in England including a period with Millwall before returning to Scotland where he worked for Celtic before moving on Hibernian as a kitman.

In Edinburgh he took up a coaching post with an amateur club which had forged links with a club in Belfast and made the decision to move to Northern Ireland.

In a pre-sentence report, McCafferty admitted being "attracted to both sexes'' but denied his behaviour towards the victim was motivated by "sexual attraction'', describing it as "messing about, a joke, a bit of fun''.

According to the report, McCafferty "minimised the suffering he had caused to the injured party and lacked empathy and insight into the hurt caused".'

Mr Taylor said that he had received instructions from McCafferty to "offer an unreserved apology for the hurt he has caused to the injured party and his family''.

Judge Patricia Smyth said she would pass sentence on August 13 and McCafferty was remanded back into custody.

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