A 83-year-old priest who was put on trial on charges of indecently assaulting a boy in a school sickbed in the 1970s was found not guilty on both charges yesterday.
The nine men and three women of the jury return to courtroom 2 at Cork Circuit Criminal Court after an hour of deliberation to tell Judge Gerard O’Brien they had reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty on both charges.
Two past pupils from the 1970s and 1980s spoke yesterday in favour of the priest, who was on trial on two charges of indecently assaulting a pupil in the sickbay of the school.
One past pupil whose marriage ceremony was later performed by the priest said yesterday: “The school was a goldfish bowl. If there was a sniff of any inappropriate behaviour it would have gotten out.”
A student from the 1970s said: “He was very much part of our set-up. He was involved in collecting stamps for charity, he was always involved in things like that. I got on fine with him. He was passionate about teaching. He would drive you hard. He was a good teacher.”
He said the priest sometimes rewarded success in one area of school activity or another with a trip away for the winners. He recalled one in a caravan in Co Galway.
Both former pupils and another one called by the defence the previous day said the defendant had never done anything of an indecent nature to them. Tom Creed, defending, asked one about his reaction to the claim that the priest had assaulted a boy at the school.
“I was astonished,” said the ex-pupil. “I would find it very hard to believe. I was very close to him. He looked after us, he was close to us, he was good to us.”
The complainant testified the alleged indecent assaults occurred when he was 13 or 14. He said one of the disputed incidents occurred the day before he was eventually hospitalised for an appendix operation and he said he was in severe pain at the time.
The complainant said the first incident occurred when he was ill with chest and stomach problems and he said the defendant felt his testicles and penis for 12 to 15 seconds.
He said that, the following year, he was very sick and it was the day before he went on to have surgery on his appendix.
He said the priest put his hand on his forehead and his other hand on his testicles and penis.
“I felt sick mentally and physically. I was in quite a lot of pain. I was unable to speak,” he said.
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