Former Nottingham scout leader and care home worker jailed for 26 years for sexual abuse of young boys

Nottingham Post [Nottingham, UK]

January 19, 2024

By Martin Naylor, Courts and legal affairs correspondent

He had ‘a tyrannical regime’ of regular beatings of children at Nazareth House in Lenton

A former scout leader and children’s home care worker is likely to die in prison after he was jailed for 26 years for historical sexual abuse of young boys in Nottingham. Nottingham Crown Court heard how predatory Steven McNally targeted five separate youngsters aged between four and 15 when he worked at catholic-run Nazareth House Children’s Home, off Priory Street, Old Lenton in the 1970s.

The 67-year-old carried out what a judge called “a tyrannical regime” in which he would “relish” in meting out regular beatings and threatened the victims who stayed silent for almost half a century, until a police investigation began in 2016 and they were interviewed about their horrific experiences at his hands.

Hugely moving victim personal statements were read to the packed courtroom including by one, now a grandfather, who bravely fought back tears to tell of the dramatic impact his years of abuse at McNally’s hand had on him.

The man, victim A and whose identity is protected by law, said: “Even now as a man I realise you are still taking from me and I need you to know, Steven McNally, that you stole so much from me. You stole my childhood, you stole my adolescence and you even stole part of my adult life.

“My own son asked if he could join a scout group but there was no way I was going to let my own son out of my sight as my own mother did that and left me in the care of a monster. I am not here for pity and sympathy and I am not even here for empathy. I want to walk away from this knowing I have got justice not only for me but for all of the other children you have damaged.”

Following a trial last year at the same court, the defendant, of St Patrick’s Avenue, Carlow, Ireland, was found guilty of 24 child sex abuse charges against the five victims who he groomed when he either worked at Nazareth House or when he was a the leader of the Bishop’s Own scout troop.

Rosemary Kavanagh, prosecuting said as well as the sexual abuse, the defendant would also physically abuse the boys who were in his care. The trial heard how McNally started and was the leader of the scout troop and took boys on holidays to camps including in Tollerton and Crich, Derbyshire, and he abused that position to carry out sexually attack victim A.

He left the care role in 1979 and in 1994 unsuccessfully applied to be ordained as a priest in Ireland when allegations about what he might have done in Nottingham bubbled to the surface.

In his impact statement, a second man, victim B told how it was “the constant beatings off McNally at Nazareth House that changed my life” as much as the sexual abuse he suffered.

A third now grown man, victim C, who was forced to relive his ordeal giving evidence at the trial, said: “All I ever wanted to be was believed. He has taken a big part of my life away and I want him to feel remorse.” And a fourth, victim D, said even almost 50 years on he has still never told his family what he went through while in care.

He said: “I was at Nazareth House as a child because I needed somewhere safe but what happened has tainted my whole life. There were Nazareth House holidays to Rhyl and Scarborough and I have never been back to those places because of what he did to me there.

“I have struggled all of my life with the shame and disgust of the sexual abuse he put me through as a child.”

Jailing McNally, Judge Julie Warburton said: “Each of these boys, now men, gave accounts of how you systematically abused them. These were painful and disturbing experiences which they have all lived with for 50 years and which they were forced to relive giving evidence.

“That they have suffered long term psychological harm cannot be disputed. I heard during the trial how you operated something of a tyrannical regime which you relished and carried out regular beating on the children when they had done nothing wrong, even telling them you were getting fit by dishing out the beatings.

“The reality is that you have lived out the past 50 years of your life having escaped blame and, therefore, justice. You preyed on children to satisfy your own sexual desires and hopefully, after today, they can finally find some closure.”

Jeremy Janes, mitigating, said his client, who appeared over a video-link from HMP Nottingham for Friday’s sentencing hearing, was himself only 18 when he came to the children’s home and that for more than 40 years there had been no further offending of any kind.

He said: “No case is devoid of mitigation whatever the nature of the offences the individual has been found guilty of. He was himself a young man at the time and he has (recently) been the carer of his mother who sadly died at Christmas last year.”

McNally’s jail term was 27 years in total, 26 custodial and a one year extended licence. It means he will not be eligible to apply for parole until two-thirds of the way through the custodial element. He will also be in the sex offender register for the rest of his life.

Last year, in an unrelated case, a woman agreed to accept £75,000 by the Sisters of Nazareth, a Catholic Order responsible for running Nazareth House in a settlement for a legal claim for alleged abuse she suffered as a child at the Home in the 1970s and 1980s.

The woman, whose identity the court anonymised as ‘HXH’, complained of serious sexual and physical abuse at the home, including repeated sexual assault by a member of care staff. As a child, she told another carer about the alleged sexual abuse, which stopped soon after.

HXH left Nazareth House when she was a teenager and spent much of her adulthood trying to bury her memories of the abuse. In December 2022, the Sisters of Nazareth agreed to pay HXH £75,000 compensation for her claim for abuse and mistreatment. The Catholic Order also offered HXH a formal apology which accepted “we failed to prevent abuse being inflicted on you and our responsibility to provide the care you needed left much to be desired”.

Speaking after sentencing, Anne McCarroll from the CPS said: “Steven McNally was the worst kind of sexual predator. He had a trusted role in the community and used this in the cruellest way possible to groom and abuse vulnerable children. He then left them to deal with the traumatic effect of his abuse alone for decades and showed no remorse for what he had done.

“What happened to the survivors of McNally’s abuse has stayed with them into adulthood. Their distress at what happened was clear to see, but they have given clear and compelling evidence that has led to their abuser being held to account for his vile actions.

“Today’s sentence shows that no matter how long ago offences took place or what has happened in between, the CPS and the police will work tirelessly to bring abusers like Steven McNally to justice.”

And Detective Constable Helen Sanders, who led the investigation, said: “McNally was a manipulative sex offender who systematically targeted vulnerable boys over a period of six years.

“His victims were vulnerable children some of whom had difficult family backgrounds. As part of an institution tasked with helping to improve their lives, McNally was placed into a sacred position of trust that he then abused in the most appalling way imaginable.

“Until you have met and interviewed victims of childhood sexual abuse it is difficult to understand just how damaging these acts can be. These victims have all had to live with the burden of what happened to them as children and have in many cases experienced considerable challenges in their adult lives as a result.

“As they have struggled, McNally has enjoyed a full and productive life – hiding behind a shield of respectability as a former housemaster and scout leader. He refused to accept responsibility for his heinous crimes, forcing his victims to relive their ordeals at trial.

“Their resilience has been extraordinary. Each of them has acted with remarkable calm and dignity during this process and also displayed considerable courage in recounting their experiences to the court. I would like to pay tribute to them and thank them all on behalf of Nottinghamshire Police for making this prosecution possible.

“Years of diligent detective work has been invested in this prosecution, not only to bring McNally to justice, but also to provide a degree of closure to the victims. Sadly, one of them is no longer with us to see justice served, but I would like to give thanks to his family for their continued support, and hope this conviction brings them some comfort in his absence.

“Finally, I would like to reach out to other victims of historic sexual abuse. It really doesn’t matter how long-ago offences happened; what matters is that they happened at all. If you come to us with an allegation we will investigate, we will follow the evidence and we will bring criminal charges if we can.”