Priest guilty of sex assault

A girl aged around 10 was picked up in a car and sexually assaulted by a priest who said he was looking for directions in West Cork.

Yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, he confirmed a plea of guilty to the offence and was jailed for a year. The indecent assault happened in the mid-1970s.

Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin made an order in relation to any publication of the case that John Calnan, aged 76, of The Presbytery, 35 Paul St, Cork, could be identified but that nothing leading to the identification of the victim could be published.

The injured party was 10 or 11 at the time of the incident. The priest was aged in his thirties.

Detective Garda Maurice Shanley said gardaí received a statement of complaint against Calnan of an indecent assault occurring on an unknown date between June 1, 1974, and June 30, 1977.

The injured party recalled in her statement that she had been wearing a summer dress when the priest drove up beside her and asked for directions to a place nearby.

She remembered that she sat in to the passenger seat of the car and, as he drove along, he put his hand on her right thigh. “While he was waiting in the front garden of the house, waiting at the front door he asked if she was ticklish,” Det Garda Shanley told the court.

“He then caught her, her back to him, and put his right hand inside her panties and put his finger inside her vagina. She could not say how long this went on. She could not say if he was aroused.

“On the way back he put his left hand on her right thigh again and did not say anything.”

Siobhán Lankford, prosecuting, asked how the victim, who is now in her forties, was getting on. The detective said: “She does not want to make a victim impact statement. She has had a lot of sleepless nights but she has come to terms with it as best she can. She has had counselling on a small scale.”

Det Garda Shanley said Calnan had five previous convictions. He got eight years with the last three years suspended for attempting to rape a young girl and indecently assaulting her three times, and indecently assaulting a boy once.

The detective said Calnan came from a decent family, was ordained in 1964, mostly serving in West Cork.

In 1992, he stopped ministering as a priest and went to the Gracewell clinic in Birmingham to deal with his offending behaviour.

John Devlin, defending, said: “He is out of ministry. He is now aged 76. He did go to Gracewell. He was very co-operative and made full admissions. He is currently in Arbour Hill prison. He is in poor health and had a heart attack last year while in prison.

“He has made good use of his time in prison and has involved himself in courses to deal with that type of offending.”

The judge said Calnan’s guilty plea spared the injured party having to come into a public place and talk about what happened to her, adding that the plea was also a total vindication of her.


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