A Nova Scotia judge has awarded a Halifax man $145,000 for abuse he suffered at the hands of a former hockey coach and teacher.
The judgment released Wednesday is the first of a half-dozen civil cases launched against Michael Patrick McNutt, 70, who has admitted to abusing 34 victims and is now serving a 15-year prison sentence.
The abuse occurred when McNutt was a teacher in the Halifax area and a volunteer coach with the Halifax Hawks hockey team.
"It's a huge deal," lawyer Michael Dull said following the judgment.
"I mean, it's been a really long road for my client and at the end of the day he sees it as a vindication for all the difficulties that he's endured as an adult as a result of the really horrific things that happened to him as a child."
Dull's client is protected by a publication ban. He was the first to go to police and get a criminal conviction against McNutt. He was also the first to launch a civil action back in 2016.
Dull said his client had to go to police three times before they would open an investigation. Following the initial complaint, a flood of other potential victims came forward. McNutt pleaded guilty rather than face a full trial.
In this civil case, McNutt instructed his lawyer to offer no defence. The only witness was the plaintiff.
"It takes a lot of courage for survivors of sexual trauma to come forward and it speaks to a great degree about the courage it takes for my client to come forward and tell his story," Dull said.
In his decision, Justice John Keith said he found the plaintiff to be completely credible in recounting how McNutt groomed him when he was a young player and McNutt was his coach.
"It is equally difficult to understand the toxic opportunism required to pervert these positions of trust into an opening for sexual deviancy," Keith wrote. He also commended the plaintiff for being able to turn his life around after resorting to drugs and crime as a teen and young adult.
The lawsuit initially named both the Hawks and the Halifax Regional School Board as respondents, but the judge noted both organizations had settled with the victim for a few thousand dollars each.
Dull said the money is not important for his client and he admits he's unlikely to collect much of the $145,000 judgment from McNutt.
"Whether or not he's able to collect on that judgment, for my client, is immaterial", Dull said.
"It's of lesser importance than the acknowledgement by the courts that what happened to him was wrong and it caused him harm."
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