Priest (67) gets three years' prison for sexual abuse of four altar boys

Irish Times
July 23, 1998

A Catholic priest has been jailed for three years for indecently assaulting four altar boys in Dublin during the 1980s.

Thomas Naughton (67), a member of St Patrick's Missionary Order, pleaded guilty in May to six charges of indecently assaulting the boys while serving in the Dublin Archdiocese.

Dressed in a grey suit and green tie, Naughton showed no emotion as sentence was passed in the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.

Earlier, he took the witness stand and said: "I wish to apologise most sincerely to the young men and their families for the damage I have done." He also apologised to the church and his order.

Naughton told his doctors he had been under family pressures at the time of the incidents, the court was told.

He had placed his ill mother in a hospice and she resented that. When she died members of his family had a dispute with him over the will, Dr Philip Moore said.

The court heard the church authorities were informed in November 1985 of the abuse of the first victim in a north Dublin church, and Naughton was sent to a treatment clinic in Stroud, England, for a few months.

On his return, he was sent to another Dublin church even though his counsellors felt he had limited insight into his offences.

He returned to the clinic when further offences emerged in 1988.

For the last 10 years he had lived in the order's headquarters in Kiltegan, Co Wicklow, caring for elderly members of the order. When he went beyond the house, he was always accompanied by a colleague to supervise him.

He was attending counselling in the Granada Institute in Shankill, Co Dublin, and his course was expected to run for the next two to three years.

The church authorities contacted the Garda in October 1995, the court heard.

Judge Kelly imposed one term of 12 months, three two-year terms, one 21/2-year term, and one three-year term.

All the sentences are to run concurrently.

He said offences such as these "corrode the fabric of society by the abuse of children". The victim impact reports clearly showed the victims experienced feelings of guilt, shame and being dirty and fears of family rejection.

The experts who had treated Naughton could only speak in terms of relapse prevention.

The judge also noted that most victims could not afford to pay for private counselling and rehabilitation.

Judge Kelly referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal's judgment in the case of The Director of Public Prosecutions v. TJ, delivered by Mr Justice Ronan Keane and two other judges on November 6th, 1996. In that case the court reduced a 51/2 -year term, with the final 18 months suspended to six months. The case involved a 10-year lapse between the offences and the case coming to the court.

In the intervening years Naughton had not re-offended, had shown remorse and had lived a useful life.

Judge Kelly said his sentence was in line with the 1996 judgment. Naughton's offences took place in the presbyteries or sacristies in Dublin. One took place in a car and another on a bed. Garda Margaret Murrell, of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, told prosecuting counsel, Ms Aileen Donnelly, that gardai were contacted by the church authorities in October 1995.

In November 1985 the authorities had been made aware by the family of a nine-year-old altar boy and social workers that Naughton had abused the child. The boy had wanted to see the chalice. Naughton gave him a soft drink, sat him on his knee and touched his genitals. The boy's family decided not to report the matter to gardai themselves but to leave that to the church authorities.

The second victim, an altar boy at the same church, was fondled by Naughton in the sacristy. The first victim's family approached this boy's mother and another priest was told of the abuse.

In December 1986 Naughton was sent to another parish, where he abused the third victim, who at the time thought it was normal, the garda said.

On another occasion the priest abused him on a bed and later in a car. The fourth victim, aged 11, had been abused in the sacristy.

A public health nurse was told of the offences in 1988 and informed the health board.

Defence counsel, Mr George Birmingham, said while the offences were serious they were not at the absolute upper end.

There was no pattern of buggery, for instance.

The time between the last offence and the invocation of the law was another unusual factor. Naughton had put the last 10 years to good use caring for elderly members of the order and getting treatment.

The Appeal Court judgment had also considered how society now had a particular horror of sexual offences, but such cases received lesser sentences in previous years.

He asked that if Naughton was to be jailed he should be given the opportunity to complete his treatment with the Granada Institute.


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