Priest faces jail for financing sex grooming

A priest who financed the grooming of a young girl for sex was told today he faces jail.

A priest who financed the grooming of a young girl for sex was told today he faces jail.

Fr Jeremiah McGrath, 63, gave more than £20,000 (€29,500) to his friend, convicted child rapist Billy Adams, who used the cash to shower a 12-year-old Liverpool girl with treats and gifts.

Having bought her silence and trust, 38-year-old Adams, originally from the Belfast area but latterly of Bootle, Merseyside, raped her repeatedly over a six-month period in 2005.

During a two-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court McGrath, of Rosslea, Co Fermanagh, denied three counts of facilitating the abuse and one count of indecently assaulting the girl.

The jury found him guilty of one count of facilitating the abuse from August to November 2005 but failed to reach a verdict on whether he did so from May to August of that year.

He was cleared of facilitating the abuse on a specified occasion, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on the indecent assault charge.

The prosecution requested a week to decide whether to pursue the two counts on which the jury was hung.

Judge Brian Lewis remanded McGrath into custody until June 14, when he will be sentenced along with Adams, who pleaded guilty to raping the girl before trial.

Judge Lewis indicated that McGrath will be jailed, telling the court: "There can only be one outcome, in terms of sentence."

McGrath, who wore his dog collar to each day of the trial, showed no emotion as sentence was passed.

The softly-spoken priest had insisted he had no idea that Adams was abusing the girl and claimed the cash transfers were linked to his heavy gambling habit.

He admitted knowing that Adams, with whom he had had a sexual relationship, was a convicted child rapist but said he believed his protestations of innocence.

He said that his personal wealth came from successful gambling – he won £60,000 (€88,500) on one race alone in 1989 – and from property he inherited from a couple he met while working in Florida, USA.

Ordained to the Missionary Society of St Patrick in 1968, McGrath also worked in Nigeria for many years.

Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, said: “This was a very sad and tragic case and our thoughts and prayers are with the child involved and with her family.

“As soon as the allegations came to light, Father McGrath was suspended from ministry, placed on administrative leave and was required to vacate the parochial house.

“We co-operated fully with the police investigation of this matter. Father McGrath’s future as a priest will now be considered. This is a complex process under Canon Law and will be carried out by his Order.”

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