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Paedophile Neil McKenna, from Tunbridge Wells, jailed for rape and sexual abuse of boys

A paedophile former soccer coach who preyed on young boys to sexually abuse them over three decades has been jailed for 22 years.

Under an extended sentence for public protection, Neil McKenna, 70, will stay behind bars for more than 14 years before the parole board will consider whether it is safe to release him.

A judge said the once respected sportsman, of Barnetts Close, Tunbridge Wells, had “no insight whatsoever” into his offending and spoke of the terrible effect on victims.

Neil McKenna
Neil McKenna

“The incredible evil of these offences is they affect people’s lives,” said Judge Charles Macdonald QC.

It was revealed that McKenna was working as a taxi driver during his trial - taking two children on the school run - in breach of his bail conditions.

McKenna was convicted on October 15 of abusing four boys, one of whom was repeatedly raped.

"The facts of this case are extremely unpleasant and distressing. It involved some 30 years of sexual offending against multiple victims" - Judge Charles Macdonald QC

He denied six charges of rape, 17 of indecent assault on a male and one of indecency with a child between 1976 and 2006.

He was convicted of four offences of rape, 12 of indecent assault and one of indecency with a child and acquitted of the remaining charges.

McKenna was originally accused of abusing five boys.

Prosecutor Christopher May said McKenna used his position as a coach to gain the boys’ trust.

“Over a period of time he then took advantage of the opportunity afforded to him to abuse them sexually,” he told Maidstone Crown Court.

McKenna coached teams in Headcorn, High Brooms, Southborough and Cranbrook.

Mr May said there was a previous investigation in the mid-1990s into allegations by two boys of sexual abuse.

McKenna, who had also lived in Dr Hopes Road, Cranbrook, made denials when arrested and no charges were brought.

He gave a press interview at the time claiming it was all a witch hunt.

Judge Charles Macdonald QC
Judge Charles Macdonald QC

But Mr May said the earlier complaints were reconsidered in light of further disclosures made by others who came forward to complain they were sexually abused by him.

Three others - now adults - came forward in 2012.

Mr May said McKenna, who worked as a swimming pool attendant at Tenterden Leisure Centre, abused the boys aged eight to 15.

McKenna, who had a flower shop in St John’s Road, Tunbridge Wells, committed some of the offences when he was a sports instructor at Price Waterhouse in London.

"There was grooming and targeting of vulnerable victims and abuse of trust. He exploited his position" - Judge Charles Macdonald

His name will appear on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely and he will be barred from working with children.

Passing sentence, Judge Macdonald said: “The facts of this case are extremely unpleasant and distressing. It involved some 30 years of sexual offending against multiple victims of a paedophile and homosexual nature.

“There was grooming and targeting of vulnerable victims and abuse of trust. He exploited his position as a sportsman as manager of football teams.”

The judge said the victim who was raped was “unquestionably vulnerable” because he was living on the streets in Tunbridge Wells.

He was taken in, groomed by McKenna and “raped over and over again”.

Judge Macdonald said victim impact statements showed the effect that had come to be expected in such cases.

“There are recordings of shame, anger and guilt,” he continued. “There is fear for their own children, no self-esteem and problems with intimate relationships. These are typical lifelong effects.”

The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court

McKenna’s pre-sentence report said there was a risk of reoffending but surprisingly, said the judge, it did not find he was dangerous.

“I disagree,” he said. “His conduct has escalated in gravity. He maintains complete denial. This in itself makes him highly dangerous, in my view.

“He is eloquent, charming and has good communication skills. These talents have been put to bad use in his offending. I conclude he is clearly dangerous and pass an extended sentence.

“There are two sides to the defendant. One side is his genuine human quality, but in this case it is the dark side I have to dealt with.”

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