A Halifax man who says he was a victim of serial sexual abuser Michael McNutt is suing the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association.
In June 2020, McNutt pleaded guilty to 35 charges related to the sexual abuse of 34 boys from 1971 to 1987. The boys ranged in age from 10 to 15. They were abused in cars, in hotel rooms, in McNutt’s apartment, in hockey arenas, at parks. In August 2020, McNutt, then 67 years old, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on those charges.
It has always seemed probable that McNutt’s crimes extended beyond those 34 victims, and beyond the years outlined in the conviction. A police investigative report obtained by the Halifax Examiner in 2017 was looking at the possible abuse by McNutt of boys as young as eight years old.
McNutt worked as a teacher at Sir Robert Borden Junior High in Dartmouth from 1977 through 1983. After parents complained about McNutt’s behaviour, McNutt was allowed to resign.
But in 1985, McNutt was hired by the Halifax District School Board as a substitute teacher, and worked at St. Stephen’s Elementary, Westmont School, St. Joseph’s–Alexander MacKay School, and Graham Creighton Junior High School in Cherrybrook. He worked as a substitute teacher until 1994, when he was convicted of a sexual offence that occurred in 1987.
McNutt then took a job at the the KFC on Quinpool Road, where he worked until he “retired” at age 48, in 2001.
At some point, McNutt was pardoned for the 1994 conviction, and the court record of it was sealed.
When he was a teacher, from 1977 to 1994, McNutt was additionally the coach for many sports teams. The Agreed Statement of Facts lists some of them, but notes that there may be others; they are:
Sir Robert Borden Hockey Team
Pee Wee and Bantam football – Fort Needham Minor Football Association
Dartmouth Minor Baseball
Dartmouth Minor Baseball, Bantam A
Dartmouth Minor Baseball Team
Halifax Capitals Bantam C Hockey
Summer Hockey League
Brunswick Invitational Hockey Tournament
Dartmouth Baseball Team
Halifax Capitals Hockey
The man who has filed suit against the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association says that he was a player for the Halifax Hawks in 1990, and McNutt was his coach.
As alleged, McNutt “cultivated a relationship of trust with him in his position as a coach of the Halifax Hawks by taking such actions including but not limited to the following: favoring him, offering food and drives to the Plaintiff, providing cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, offering him increased ice time or threatening to decrease ice time, and accommodations to throw parties for the Plaintiff and other players.”
“While in the capacity of the Plaintiff’s coach,” the lawsuit continues, “McNutt repeatedly physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally abused and assaulted the Plaintiff. The assaults and batteries consisted, inter alia, of inappropriate touching, touching and fondling of a sexual nature, sodomy, fallatio, and masturbation.”
McNutt “acted in flagrant and outrageous conduct in that he exploited his position as a Coach to exploit a minor,” reads the lawsuit.
And, as alleged, the Halifax Hawks “was responsible for the actions of McNutt while he was a coach.” The lawsuit continues:
The Defendant, Halifax Hawks, owed a duty of care, fiduciary duty, and non-delagable duty to the Plaintiff. Specifically, it owed a duty to:
a) Adequately protect the Plaintiff from those employed by of volunteering for the Halifax Hawks and placed in a position of authority by the Halifax Hawks in particular, from physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse;
b) Effectively and adequately screen its employees or volunteers for suitability to be employed to be in positions of authority over minors;
c) Effectively and adequately supervise and monitor its employees in positions of authority over minors;
d) Effectively and adequately train its employees or volunteers in positions of authority over minors;
e) Have effective and adequate systems to investigate allegations or suspicions of inappropriate or illegal conduct by its employees in positions of authority over minors; and
f) Take effective and adequate action in response to allegations and suspicions inappropriate or illegal conduct by its employees in positions of authority over minors, specifically McNutt.
The Defendant, Halifax Hawks, was negligent and breached its care, fiduciary duty, and non-delagable duty to the Plaintiff, the particulars of which are as follows:
a) chose to hire and employ, or chose a volunteer coach, specifically McNutt, who they knew, or ought to have known, did not have the requisite qualifications or character to be a coach;
b) knew or ought to have known that McNutt had displayed pedophilic tendencies;
c) failed to take reasonable, if any, care to protect the Plaintiff from being physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally abused by McNutt;
d) failed to adequately, if at all, screen McNutt for suitability to be employed or to be a volunteer in a position of authority over minors, especially as a coach;
e) failed to identify warning signs and indications that McNutt was not properly suited to be employed or a volunteer in a position of authority over minors, especially as a coach;
f) failed to adequately, if at all, supervise and monitor McNutt;
g) failed, or refused, to maintain proper control over its coach;
h) failed to properly and adequately, if at all, investigate allegations and suspicions of inappropriate and illegal conduct, including sexual assault and battery, by McNutt during the course of his employment or volunteer position;
i) failed to take prompt and adequate, if any, action in response to information it received about inappropriate and illegal conduct by McNutt, including the physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse of minors under his supervision;
j) failed to end McNutt’s employment, or volunteer role, and remove him from a position of authority of minors when it knew, or ought to have known, that McNutt was physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally abusing minors under his supervision; and
k) such other negligence and breaches that may appear from the evidence at Trial.
The man is asking for damages for “pain and suffering and loss of amenities,” as well as punitive damages and other costs.
The allegations in the lawsuit have not been tested in court, and the Halifax Hawks have not yet filed a defence. The man is represented by Liam O’Reilly, a lawyer with Wagner’s Law.