October 2021

Children’s basketball coach who carried Paralympic torch unmasked as paedophile

A children’s basketball coach who once carried the Paralympic torch ahead of the London 2012 games has been unmasked as a paedophile who shared ‘horrific’ child rape videos.

Stuart McNeil, 39, was branded ‘an offender of particular concern’ by a judge who jailed him.

A court heard he discussed raping a baby during ‘depraved’ online chats – and was eventually arrested in Stockport as he was with an England junior basketball team.

McNeil – who pleaded guilty to all the charges he faced – was caught after a police officer posed undercover on a messaging app.

He’s now beginning a two-and-a-half year jail sentence

McNeil used to coach Cheshire Junior Jets as well as Warrington Collegiate and the University of Chester basketball teams.

Born with spina bifida, he carried the Paralympic torch through Ellesmere Port during a parade in 2012 ahead of the London Paralympic Games.

Liverpool Crown Court heard McNeil, of Baker Drive, Great Sutton, Ellesmere Port, used a messaging app said to be ‘favoured by those with an interest in the sexual abuse of children’.

The officer posed as a man living with his girlfriend, who was expecting their first child, in July, 2019

He joined a group on the app titled ‘babys’, which had 23 members, and ended up in a private conversation with McNeil, said David Polglase, prosecuting.

Mr Polglase said: “The conversation quickly turned towards fantasies about sexually abusing the child of the couple when it was born.”

McNeil asked the officer if he was going ‘to start early’ with his child and said if he had a newborn baby, he would abuse them.

The court heard McNeil sent a ‘Category B’ indecent photograph of a nine-month-old girl and asked the officer to send him a photo of his baby when it was born.

On July 9, 2019, the court heard McNeil sent the officer a ‘Category A film’, involving a boy aged seven.

Mr Polglase said McNeil discussed how the officer ‘should start abusing the baby when it was born’.

Then, on July 22, McNeil shared to the group a video of a child being raped, then sent it directly to the officer.

The officer then sent a photo of his supposed baby girl to McNeil, who asked whether he had abused her yet, the court was told.

Mr Polglase said: “There was then discussion about meeting up so the baby could be abused together.”

But the court heard no actual arrangement was made and McNeil ‘didn’t have a fixed intention to do it’.

A judge was told he discussed other intentions too graphic to publish and twice more encouraged the officer to abuse his supposed baby.

McNeil also sent other images of children, aged between 12 months and 11-years-old, being raped, the court heard.

Police raided his home on August 8, 2019 and seized his electronic devices.

Mr Polglase said: “Police were informed he was in Stockport with the England U15 basketball team.

“The police attended at the location and arrested him.”

McNeil’s vile collection featured 368 ‘Category A’ images, including 56 videos; 329 ‘Category B’ images, including 15 videos, and 604 ‘Category C’ images, including 13 videos.

Mr Polglase said: “The officer who examined these images described them as some of the worst he has seen in 18 years of this type of work.”

Officers also discovered he had been talking to others on the app about abusing children and was in multiple groups, the court heard.

McNeil admitted three counts of downloading, one count of possessing and three counts of distributing indecent images, plus possessing prohibited images of children and extreme pornography.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of intentionally encouraging an offence and two counts of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Rick Holland, defending him, accepted the material was ‘very disturbing’.

Sentencing him, Judge Byrne said every image and video represented a victim of sexual abuse and McNeil ‘fuelled the market for it’.

The judge told him: “You began to fantasise about sexually abusing the purported child when it was born and you sent explicit messages expressing your depraved desires.

“What was done to them is deeply appalling.”

He was also ordered to comply with a Sexual Harm Prevention Order for six years and sign the Sex Offenders’ Register for life.