Yorkshire Evening Post [Leeds, UK]
June 20, 2023
By Nick Frame
A predatory Catholic priest who terrorised altar boys across West Yorkshire for more than a decade, forcing them to perform sex acts on each other, has been handed a fresh jail sentence.
Father David Crowley used his position and access to youngsters as a “breeding ground” to groom and then carry out his sordid sexual fantasies, thinking he was “untouchable”, a judge told him at Leeds Crown Court this week.
He has been jailed twice already for sexually abusing young boys, first in 1998 and then in 2019, having targeted a total of 11 youngsters. It was only after he was jailed for a second time that five more victims dared to step forward.
Now 69-years-old, he abused the boys from the early 80s through to the mid 90s, taking place in Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield and the Yorkshire Dales. He initially denied the offences, but later made full admissions, which included abusing several boys at the same time.
Already serving a 20-year extended sentence imposed in 2019, he was given another eight-and-a-half years to start once his current sentence expires, meaning he is likely to die behind bars.
Judge Ray Singh told him: “The victims have showed fortitude and bravery in contacting the police, having to recount personal abuse they suffered at the hands of somebody they trusted.
“They have a right to not only feel let down by you, but by others in authority. Over a number of years you carried out systematic abuse of young children placed in your pastoral care.
“You found it as a breeding ground to carry out abuse for your own sexual gratification. You are a person who revelled in the notoriety and maybe believed you were untouchable.”
Prosecutor Rebecca Young said Crowley would often invite altar boys to his home to sleep over and ply with them alcohol in pubs and at his house. He would get into bed with them and kiss and touch their genitals.
He would order the boys to strip naked and make them masturbate each other while he watched. Once victim said Crowley took him out for a pizza on his 11th birthday, but stopped the car in a remote area to abuse the youngster, before taking him for his meal.
In heart-breaking personal statements, some of the boys later turned to drugs to cope with the shame they felt. One had even attempted suicide before he finally broke his silence.
While one said he pitied Crowley, another said he was bitterly angry, not just with Crowley, but blamed the Roman Catholic Church for being “as responsible”.
Crowley appeared in court via video link from HMP Full Sutton, the Category A high-security prison near York, and admitted 14 counts of indecent assault, and eight of indecency with a child.
Little mitigation was offered on his behalf by his barrister Sean Smith, only that he deserved some credit for entering guilty pleas and sparing the victims the trauma of giving evidence during a trial.
But Judge Singh criticised Crowley for not confessing to police all of the abuse he had committed when given the chance in 1998 and in 2019.