South Devon nursery worker who abused toddlers jailed for 14.5 years

Jayden McCarthy abused young children between the ages of two and four. Credit: Nick Irving

A nursery worker from South Devon has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison for sexually abusing nine toddlers.

The families of his victims - who were between the ages of two and four - say they have been left "broken" and are "haunted" by the abuse.

Jayden McCarthy, aged 18, carried out a series of sex attacks on children while working as a nursery assistant in July 2019.

He was found guilty of 14 sexual offences against nine children at the nursery following a trial in May this year. He was also convicted of two counts of raping a boy five years earlier.

McCarthy has now been jailed for 14 and a half years, following a hearing at Exeter Crown Court on Friday 23 July.

Speaking after the sentencing, a parent with a child at the nursery who wasn't abused told ITV News the children's families feel "massively let down".

Jayden McCarthy Credit: Nick Irving

"We've entrusted our precious little kids, little innocent toddlers in that environment," she said.

"It is the hardest thing you have to do when you have to go back to work and put your child back into a nursery care setting.

"We all thought we made the right decision... From the evidence in court, it has proved it was anything but a safe environment to have them in."

During the sentencing, the court heard a statement from the father of one of the victims.

He described how his partner will now "sometimes break down in tears" as a result of the abuse, adding the ordeal is the worst thing they have faced as parents.

"I have been broken as a person by Jayden McCarthy. I have been haunted by what Jayden has done. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and antidepressants," he said.

He said his child is now "very wary of males", has night terrors and wets the bed - which they did not do before.

"No-one knows what the long term effects will be," he added.

McCarthy indecently assaulted, touched or handled the children inappropriately, sometimes while others were in the room.

Investigations began when a little girl went home from nursery wearing clothes different to the ones she arrived in.

Police were alerted and officers examined 256 hours of CCTV from the nursery in South Devon, some of which showed the abuse.

An artist impression of Jayden McCarthy during the trial at Exeter Crown Court. Credit: ITV News

In a statement, the parents of McCarthy's victims thanked Devon and Cornwall Police for their "tireless efforts and dedication" to the children involved in the "heart-breaking" case.

"So many innocent children have been affected and the implications are far reaching," it continued.

"As parents, we are still in disbelief at how this sexual abuse was able to happen on a daily basis over a consistent period of time.

"Our focus as a parents group moving forward, is to ensure there are support services in place for our children when needed - and do everything in our power to ensure no other families have to go through such a horrific ordeal every again."

Detective Chief Inspector James Stock, from Devon and Cornwall Police's Public Protection Unit, said the case has been "emotionally challenging" and "incredibly complex".

“I’d like to thank the young children and the families who have been involved in this case for their support and cooperation over many, many months," he said.

"I also commend the work of the police investigation team, partner agencies and CPS prosecution counsel for their commitment and detailed work over the past two years.”

An independent review of the case has been commissioned and police say the key findings will be published at the earliest opportunity.

  • If you have witnessed an assault or think a child is in immediate danger contact the police on 999 or call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 without delay.