How paedophile priest was allowed to evade justice

Former priest Bill Carney was named as one of the worst cases in Dublin's Catholic diocese in the Murphy report into clerical abuse there. However, for the last 10 years he has been free to live quietly in Britain.

Newsnight's Olenka Frenkiel has investigated his case and tracked him down in the Canary Islands.

BBC News, UK/March 9, 2010

All the children in Ayrfield, Dublin, knew fun-loving Father Bill Carney - not just the altar boys and those who met him through school, but members of the Scout troop he ran and the groups of local children he took swimming.

His door was always open, there was a ready supply of Coke in the fridge and in the 1980s he had the very latest thing to lure youngsters in - a video player.

Adults disapproved of his swearing and crazy driving, but the Catholic Church was still so trusted, no-one suspected the truth about him.

Bridie Dwyer still lives in Ayrfield. Above the fireplace, with other family photographs is a picture of her youngest child, Paul, on his first Communion day.

At the age of 13 Paul went with other boys to watch videos at Father Carney's house and to have a sleepover, Mrs Dwyer told me. But at 2am Paul unexpectedly returned home.

"Thought you were going for a sleepover?" she recalled asking him as he pushed past her. "Didn't want to stay," he replied and shut his door.

"That's when he'd been raped," Mrs Dwyer told me, "but I didn't know".

What no-one, except Carney's bishop and the local police, knew was that the priest was a paedophile.

The Murphy report into the cover up by the Catholic Church and Irish state of clerical sex abuse was published in November 2009.

It described Carney as "a serial sexual abuser of children, male and female", saying that there had been complaints and suspicions "in respect of 32 named individuals" about him, adding that "there is evidence he abused many more children".

'Child in his bed'

Michael Wheeler, who as a boy was one of Carney's altar servers, said that following the report a strange but vivid memory from when he was young suddenly made sense.

He told me that when he was nine years old Carney was late for Mass one day, so, fearful that he might not turn up, he ran into the priest's house and called his name. " He wanted Carney in court so he could ask him why, why had Carney raped him? That never happened and the way things are going, the way the police and the clergy are handling it now I can't see it ever happening " Bridie Dwyer, mother of Paul

"I heard a groan," he said, "and I saw in the bedroom, a boy, a little older than me, naked between the sheets.

"This boy sat up, stared groggily at me, and fell back into the bed. I was terrified and ran out. As a child I couldn't understand why he was there. Now I know."

We now know that complaints about Carney were diverted away from the Irish criminal justice system to Bishop James Kavanagh, a man described by the Murphy Report as someone with "a soft spot for Carney".

Kavanagh did what he could to protect Carney from the law to avoid scandal for the Church.

One conscientious policeman, praised in the Murphy Report, did investigate complaints and they came to court. But the press were kept away as Carney pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and got probation.

Six families were paid compensation and Carney was soon back working, with access to children.

Paid to leave parish

In its 40 pages on Carney, the Murphy report said that his was one of the worst cases the commission investigated and that the Church's handling of his case was "nothing short of catastrophic".

"It was inept, self-serving and for the best part of 10 years displayed no obvious concern for the welfare of children," the report said.

In 1992, the Church convicted Carney internally, under Canon law, of child sexual abuse.

But this compulsive paedophile refused to leave the parish house. So the Church paid him £30,000 to go away.

He moved to Cheltenham and then to Scotland, where he has lived for the last 10 years running a family-friendly guest house in St Andrews.

Back in Dublin, it took Bridie's son Paul Dwyer 21 years to come forward, but in 2004 he told the police about his rape.

The police said they had received two other complaints like his and sent the file to the Irish director of public prosecutions (DPP), but the DPP said there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

"So the case stopped," his mother told me, "and, a couple of weeks later Paul committed suicide. He couldn't handle it any more.

"He wanted Carney in court so he could ask him why, why had Carney raped him? That never happened and the way things are going, the way the police and the clergy are handling it now I can't see it ever happening," she added.

No warnings given

That same year, in Scotland, Carney got married.

Newsnight has established that the Irish authorities knew his address but no-one, either from the Church or the Irish state, thought to warn his new wife about his past, or protect any children who might be at risk.

Nothing was done to prevent him leaving, as usual, for his winter holiday in the Canary Islands, a popular destination for families with children, and no-one warned the local police.

The Murphy report quotes a psychiatric assessment which says he suffers from a "psychopathic personality disorder".

"His refusal to acknowledge his paedophilia," it said, "means the prognosis for a cure is bleak".

Confronted over abuse

I tracked Carney down in the Canary Islands, first at a restaurant on the sea front and then to the flat where he was staying, to ask about the abuse.

He refused to comment on the Murphy report, saying he had not read it.

He claimed that when he pleaded guilty to child sex abuse in 1983 it was not because he was guilty, but because: "I was told if I plead guilty the press would be kept away."

When I asked "Why did you rape Paul Dwyer?" his response was: "Rape. I'd like to explain that. Put it into context."

What kind of context, I asked, could excuse the rape of a child? But he did not answer.

And when I asked "Are you still abusing children?" his answer begged more questions.

"I haven't done that in 26 years and I have had no inclination," he said. But he refused to be drawn on whether that was admission that he had abused before.

Assistant Garda Commissioner John O'Mahoney has been assigned the task of investigating whether anyone should be prosecuted as a result of the revelations in the Murphy report.

These investigations, his office has said, are ongoing.

In Britain, the Home Office said that because Carney's two convictions for indecent assault pre-date the 2003 Sex Offender's Act and took place in Ireland he would not be on the Sex Offenders Register and would pass unseen through the new stricter vetting procedures for child protection.

Carney meanwhile remains free to disappear beneath the radar.

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