Four years for child sex abuse priest

Sunderland Echo, UK/May 15, 2008

A priest has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to molesting children more than 40 years ago.

Father John Benedict Corrigan, who worked at St Cuthbert's Church in Seaham from October 1979 to June 1989, was extradited from Ireland to face charges of child abuse.

The specific allegations date back to the 1960s and 1970s, but Newcastle Crown Court heard how one of his male victims spent the early 1980s trying to convince the authorities about what had happened to him.

However, despite confronting Corrigan and bringing the offending to the attention of the police, his pleas were ignored.

The court heard it was not until 1994 that a specialist child protection system was put in place for those who claimed to have been abused by members of the clergy.

Corrigan, 72, admitted seven charges of indecent assault relating to three boys between 1967 and 1972.

He admitted two charges relating to the girl from around the same time period.

Shortly after his extradition in October last year he appeared at Newcastle Crown Court and admitted seven charges of indecent assault between 1967 and 1972.

The charges related to three boys who were aged between eight and 13. None is understood to relate to children in the Seaham area.

At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Judge David Hodson told him: "By virtue of your priesthood you were in an especially privileged position. You were regarded by your parishioners as a person with whom the safety and innocence of the children in your charge would be safe.

"Over a period of about five years you breached that trust in the grossest way.

"A striking feature of these offences is you chose either the sanctity of the sacristy or the safety of the vestry to commit these offences either when altar boys or the helpful teenage girl was alone, when no one was about and you believed your position was unassailable.

"You thought no one would complain and even if they did their word would not be believed against yours.

"When complaints were later made those thoughts, which I'm sure you must have had, were, in fact, proved right, both the church and the police did nothing.

"But you will not be punished for the failings of others. You will be sentenced for what you did."

Speaking after the hearing Father Dennis Tindall, Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinator of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, said he has worked closely with some of the victims and while the sentence will not take away their pain, it will help them feel "acknowledged."

He added: "Most priests do a very good job and will continue to do that as they now work in a transparent way with any information which if given to us about any member of our community who has infringed the rights of others.

"We do not have a good history on this subject. We need to acknowledge things weren't always done correctly in the past.

"When information was shared it was often not passed on to the people who could do something about it.

"But since 1994 we have had thorough procedures in place and always work now in tandem with the police and statutory agencies to make sure the requirements of the law are honoured and that justice is done."

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