Glasgow priest Neil McGarrity who touched girls ‘stunned’ by sex assault charges

The Times/The Sunday Times [London, England]

December 16, 2022

By Connor Gordon

A priest has told of his shock at being accused of sexually abusing four girls after claims that he hugged inappropriately and touched their waist.

Father Neil McGarrity, 58, is accused of carrying out the crimes in Glasgow at St Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic church in Riddrie, St Bernadette’s church in Carntyne, and his parish house between December 2018 and February 2020.

McGarrity, of the Germiston area, denied two charges of sexual assault against a girl at his trial at Glasgow sheriff court yesterday. He also pleaded not guilty to a further two charges of sexual assault and engaging in sexual activity with other girls.

McGarrity told the trial in his evidence that he was made aware of the allegations after a phone call from his archbishop in May 2020.

Billy Lavelle, for the defence, asked the priest of 33 years for his reaction to the claims. McGarrity said he was “stunned”, adding that there was no sexual motive behind his actions.

“There was truth in so far as some of the things I did and didn’t do,” McGarrity said.

The priest said he had put his hand on the shoulder of a 14-year-old girl who complained that he had hugged her. He said that he had picked up training on hugging while in the US. He denied that anything sexual lay behind the hug.

Lavelle mentioned another allegation from the girl, who claimed her arm was stroked while she was sitting on a swinging chair with him at his home.

McGarrity claimed that the chair had been removed months before the alleged incident took place.

He stated that there was no physical contact between the pair and he only put the television on for her. He did admit to rubbing the girl’s sore foot and doing a prayer after receiving permission from her parents.

Lavelle asked how the girl had reacted to that. He replied: “She was happy and took her shoe and sock off.”

McGarrity denied a further allegation that he put his hand on the waists of her older sister aged 15 or 16 and a 14-year-old girl on the same night.

He said: “We were getting up from the table and I put my hands on them and said to one of their dads ‘Look at these two trying to dodge the dishes’.”

The priest claimed that he touched the pair of them on their lower back for five to six seconds. Lavelle asked if the act was sexual and McGarrity replied: “It’s not true, They came into the kitchen after that to get ice cream — everything to me was fine.”

McGarrity denied that anything had happened with the 14-year-old the night he made her and her mother a carbonara at his home. He said that he gave the girl a hug “a couple of times” as a form of encouragement due to bullying and confidence issues.

The girl contacted Childline about McGarrity, the court was told.

Lavelle asked: “You didn’t have any knowledge that she did this while her mum was present for advice?” McGarrity replied: “Yes.” He stated that he did not know why the girl called Childline.

Lavelle put it to his client that the girl claimed that he had rubbed her on the breast area from the side. “Did you do anything like that?” Lavelle asked. “No, it did not happen,” McGarrity said.

The trial before Sheriff Vincent Lunny continues.Share