A teenager who sexually abused nine children at the nursery where he worked as an apprentice has been jailed for 11 years and six months.
Jayden McCarthy assaulted the children over the course of several weeks in 2019, when he was 16 and they were aged between two and four.
McCarthy, now 18, was an apprentice assistant at the nursery in the Torbay area of Devon when he committed the offences.
He was convicted of one count of rape and 13 of sexual assault relating to the nursery, and two unrelated charges of raping a child, following a trial at Exeter Crown Court.
Judge David Evans sentenced him to 11 years and six months in detention, with a further three years on licence.
The judge said the teenager posed a high level of risk given he could “barely contain” his sexual impulses while working at the nursery.
“You had obtained a job at a nursery. You had received safeguarding training,” he told McCarthy.
“Whatever immaturity you exhibit, you clearly understood the importance of safeguarding and the need to protect the young and vulnerable children whose care was entrusted to you.
“You were placed in a specific position of trust and you exploited that situation.”
McCarthy applied for a job at the nursery after turning 16, providing references and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.
During his employment, he underwent further training including on safeguarding children.
There were no official concerns about his work. Some staff thought he was “immature” around the children but this was thought to be due to his age, the judge said.
However, an investigation was launched after a young girl told her parents that McCarthy had raped her. He was immediately suspended.
There was no CCTV footage of the incident in the toilet area of the nursery, as McCarthy changed the girl out of wet clothing.
The judge said McCarthy had carried out the rape when some members of staff were having a meeting and others were having lunch, leaving fewer employees to look after the children.
“Given they would have their hands full, that was clearly an opportunity for you to do what you intended to do,” he told McCarthy.
McCarthy was arrested after the girl’s parents reported the incident and officers examined 250 hours of CCTV recordings from the site.
Through the footage, police identified 13 incidents of McCarthy abusing eight other children in “blazingly obvious incidents”, the judge said.
He said the teenager “camouflaged” his actions by pretending he was allowing children to crawl over him during play, applying sunscreen to them, or soothing them to sleep.
Other children were present during the attacks and are seen in the footage looking “curious and confused” at what was happening, the judge said.
During the court hearing, the father of the girl McCarthy raped described how the incident had “broken” him.
He said it was unclear what long-term damage had been caused to his daughter and the incident had had a “massive impact on all family members”.
After the allegations at the nursery came to light, a child reported they had been raped by McCarthy years earlier.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, that child said they had experienced “shame and embarrassment” about what happened.
McCarthy denied the allegations against him during police interviews and throughout the trial, and continues to deny them, the court heard.
Judge Evans told him the sentence took into account his immaturity, as well as his life experiences including “childhood abuse and significant neglect”.
He said he was satisfied that McCarthy posed a high level of risk, “having seen the way in which you could barely contain your sexual impulses at that nursery aged 16”.
“It seems to me that sexual offending may be in your nature and a great deal of work may be needed to work it out,” the judge added.
After the case, Detective Chief Inspector James Stock, of Devon and Cornwall Police, thanked the children and families involved for their “support and co-operation”.
He praised the police investigation team, agencies and prosecutors for their “commitment and detailed work”.
An independent review into the abuse, commissioned by Torbay’s Safeguarding Partnership, will be completed now the court proceedings have ended.
Steve Hart, chairman of the review panel, said: “Once completed, the review will enable the partnership to understand the specific detail of what has happened and to learn and implement any lessons that have arisen so that we can all work to continue to safeguard and protect the children of Torbay.
“The key findings of this review will be published at the earliest opportunity.”