Priest abused teenage boys in 1970s and 80s at training college

July 1, 2015

Colman McGrath: Priest abused three boys.

A priest who abused three teenage boys in the 1970s and 80s has avoided jail.

Colman McGrath, 76, abused two boys who were training to join the priesthood at Blairs College in Aberdeen and went on to indecently assault another school boy he was tutoring at his chapel in Langside, Glasgow.

But McGrath, who is now retired, was only interviewed by police in June 2014 after the abuse came to light decades later.

McGrath pleaded guilty to three charges of indecent assault between August 1972 and September 1982 at Glasgow Sheriff Court.

Sheriff Kenneth Mitchell imposed a community payback order on the condition that he will be supervised for three years and must carry out 200 hours of unpaid work within 12 months.

He was also put on the sex offenders register for three years on Wednesday.

The court heard McGrath was ordained in June 1962 and between August 1963 and June 1978 taught at Blairs College in Aberdeen, where young men studied with a view to joining the priesthood.

He was then based at St Helen's Presbytery in Langside between 1979 and 1984.

Procurator fiscal depute Mark Allan told the court the first charge, which spans between August 1972 and June 1973, involved a 17-year-old boy at the school. He said McGrath's first victim was in his sixth year and his attacker commented about a skin condition on his back.

Mr Allan said: "The victim was invited to the accused's private room within the seminary and once there he was induced to take off all of his clothes and lie face down on the bed there."

Oil rub

The accused then rubbed an oil-based substance on to the back of the victim. On another occasion McGrath rubbed the oil on his back, thighs and calves, claiming the oil "would be good for his muscles".

Mr Allan said that on the third occasion, the teenager was sent off during a football game that McGrath was refereeing and told to go to his room to be punished.

The prosecutor said the victim was to pull down his trousers and pants and bent over a desk there while McGrath "struck the bare buttocks of the complainer repeatedly with a slipper".

In March 2014, the victim contacted the archdiocese and reported the incidents.

The court was told the second victim - a 16-year-old pupil - remembers four incidents between August 1973 and February 1974. Mr Allan said the victim's recollection was that he was in fifth year and that he was at confession at McGrath's flat within the building.

He said: "The victim was asked if he thought he had been punished enough and the accused told him that he had not."

Mr Allan told the sheriff the young victim indicated to police he trusted the priest and was he was "induced" to take his trousers and underwear off and bend over a chair. The court was told he was repeatedly hit on the bare buttocks with a hair brush.

Mr Allan said that was the pattern over the four incidents.

He added: "Further in relation to the last two of the four incidents the complainer was induced to strike the accused with a hair brush on the buttocks, he having bent over a chair the same way the complainer was induced to do."

McGrath had his clothes on during these incidents.

The final victim McGrath preyed on was a 14-year-old student struggling with maths and sent to him for tutoring in September 1980 at St Helen's Presbytery in Langside, Glasgow.

He was hit on the had with a belt and later spanked by the priest after making a mistake during a lesson.

Mr Allan said the boy was made to take off his trousers and pants and was bent over the priest's knees and was hit on the bottom.

The court was told during his police interview in June 2014 he remembered the boys involved but denied the allegations. It was said on McGrath's behalf that in the interview he said he could not recall incidents rather than it being outright denial.

It was also said that McGrath took exception to the incidents being linked with confession.

He claimed that something might have been said in confession, but that this was separate and confession would never have happened in his room.

McGrath, through his lawyer, made an "unreserved and full apology" to all three victims and said that they "feature regularly in the prayers of the accused".



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