Priest Jailed for Two Years for Abusing Boy

By Alison Healy
Irish Times
December 16, 2009

[See also Justice Catches up with Abuser but Victim's Life Is Still on Hold, by Alison Healy and Patsy McGarry, Irish Times, December 17, 2009; and Failure of Church to Stop Abuse Led to Suicides and Settlements, by Patsy McGarry, Irish Times, December 16, 2009.]

Ireland -- VERDICT: FR THOMAS Naughton, who was previously convicted of indecent assault in 1998, has been jailed for two years for indecently assaulting an altar boy in Valleymount, Co Wicklow, in the early 1980s.

The 78-year-old St Patrick's Missionary Society priest pleaded guilty to five sample counts of indecent assault and yesterday he received five three-year sentences, to run concurrently, with the final year suspended in each case.

Handing down the sentences at Wicklow Circuit Court in Bray, Judge Michael O'Shea said the abuse was "appalling, shocking and horrifying".

The court heard that the abuse started in 1982, when the victim was six years old. After he had made his First Communion he became an altar server in Valleymount parish, where Naughton was curate.

The boy cycled to the daily 8.30am Mass and left his bike at the church, as it was beside the school. The abuse started within weeks, when Naughton put his hands into the boy's trousers and made the boy put his hands down his trousers.

The abuse happened before and after Mass. When the victim reported the abuse to gardaí in 2007, he said he remembered crying when the priest abused him "but he wouldn't stop".

Naughton would wait for the boy to collect his bicycle after school and continue the abuse.

"I was afraid of my life of Naughton, who was a big man," the victim said. He said the priest told him that he would get into trouble if he told anyone.

The court heard the abuse continued for two years and the victim estimated he had been sexually assaulted "close to 70 times".

After the boy's friends told his parents that the priest was "very fond" of him, his parents grew alarmed and his father went to the parish priest. On feeling that he was making no progress, he told the parish priest he was giving him three weeks to get rid of Naughton. At about the same time the now-retired Det Sgt John Brennan also raised concerns about the priest, and Naughton was transferred to Donnycarney.

Barrister Paul Murray, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said Naughton had told gardaí he didn't remember specific incidents of abuse, but it was likely that they had happened. He said he could not put a name or a face on anyone he may have abused. "I accept that he's being honest," Naughton said of the victim's complaint, "but I can't identify him."

The court heard that he had been convicted of indecently assaulting altar boys in Dublin in 1998 and had received a three-year sentence, later reduced by six months.

Since his release, he had been living under a very strict regime of supervision at his order's home in Kiltegan, his barrister Orla Crowe said. He cannot say Mass or wear clerical garb.

Ms Crowe said Naughton wanted to offer his profound apology to the injured party "in respect of the very grave wrongdoing that he engaged in".

She asked the judge to take into account his guilty plea, his willingness to have treatment, his co-operation with gardaí and his failing health. He had a number of medical conditions, including early Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis and hypertension.

She also said the priest was subjected to an "unprecedented level of public interest" in the wake of the Murphy report.

Naughton was one of 46 priests investigated by the commission which looked at how the Dublin archdiocese handled child sex abuse complaints.

Judge O'Shea said the publicity was in many ways "brought upon himself by himself".

He said the boy was extremely vulnerable, and the priest had abused his position of trust and respect. By waiting for the boy after school, he was "plotting, indeed stalking in respect of ". The abuse had had an "absolutely catastrophic" impact on the victim's life, in terms of suicide attempts, anxiety, sleeplessness and weight loss.

Judge O'Shea said the strict monitoring regime by Naughton's superiors at Kiltegan should continue after his release. Ms Crowe said the sentence would be appealed.

The victim attended the hearing but did not speak to the media.


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