Steven McNally: Former Nottinghamshire scout leader jailed for abusing boys in 1970s

West Bridgford Wire [Nottingham, UK]

January 19, 2024

By West Bridgford Wire

former scout leader and care home worker has been jailed for abusing boys in Nottinghamshire in the 1970s.

Steven McNally abused five different young, vulnerable boys. He used his work and voluntary activities to groom the boys and sexually abuse them. The abuse took place on scout camps, in the care home where McNally worked and his own home when he took boys there inappropriately.

In the 1990s, McNally disclosed that he had been involved in sexual activity with young boys when interviewed by a psychologist as he applied to join the Catholic priesthood, but it was not until one of his victims came forward that the scale of his abuse was revealed.

One of his victims was triggered by a soap opera episode and disclosed what had happened to him as a child, including incidents in Ireland, to family and other leaders from his old scout group. This was reported to the police and an investigation began into McNally’s offending.

While these complaints were being investigated, another victim named McNally as an abuser during a public enquiry. Following this initial extremely concerning disclosure, officers from Nottinghamshire Police looked closely into McNally’s past and his contact with young people. Four further survivors of abuse were identified and a pattern of abuse emerged. The accounts of these survivors showed that McNally had systematically preyed on the vulnerability of children to commit a campaign of sexual abuse over several years.

McNally groomed his victims, with sexual activity with the boys becoming increasingly serious. He used pretexts such as pretending he was protecting them from physical abuse committed by other care home workers or using violence himself and threatening further abuse if they did not comply. He made the survivors feel that they could not report what he was doing because either they would not be believed because they were in care or because their family would not accept criticism of people connected with the church.

During the course of the investigation, the police team liaised with one of the CPS’s specialist rape prosecutors based in the East Midlands to build a strong and compelling case against McNally, who had since moved to Ireland. The CPS secured a European Arrest Warrant and McNally was extradited from Ireland and prosecuted for 24 sexual offences against the five survivors. He was tried at Nottingham Crown Court and found guilty of all charges against him. He was today, Friday 19 January, sentenced to 26 years imprisonment, with a one-year extended licence.

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.”

Building the case

The initial case against Steven McNally related to the first victim who had been abused by McNally while in the scouts. This survivor gave compelling evidence of his own. While the abuse was not witnessed, others gave evidence of other behaviour patterns that corroborated details of the survivor’s account.

As survivors came forward to report abuse in the care home, the police proactively identified other survivors who confirmed that they had also been abused by McNally. This revealed complex evidence relating to incidents experienced decades ago when the survivors were children. The CPS prosecutor developed a case strategy to put across to a jury the scale of McNally’s offending and ensure he faced justice for the extent of his offending against each survivor.

As part of the lengthy investigation, police officers had to identify where care home records were kept, since the home itself had closed. Even once these had been found and used to identify potential victims and prove that the survivors who had come forward were living there at the same time as McNally’s employment, the CPS had to assess all the records to ensure that our disclosure obligations were met.

The evidence showed a similar pattern of offending against each survivor, starting with either gaining their trust or control over them and then gradually escalating the level of abuse against them.

Witnesses from McNally’s time in the care home reported aspects of his behaviour that were consistent with him grooming his victims. This included taking boys out of the care home to his own house.

In order for McNally to face justice in Nottingham, the CPS liaised with the Irish authorities to secure his extradition through a European Arrest Warrant.

One of the victims sadly died before the case came to trial. The CPS applied for the evidence provided by this victim to be used as evidence in trial using hearsay legislation. This allows evidence to be heard by the jury without being followed by cross examination.

Once all these different pieces of evidence were put together, the jury were left with a comprehensive picture of persistent abuse of vulnerable children, targeted because they would not or could not speak out due to their circumstances at the time.