Former priest who sexually abused boy jailed for one year

Wed, Feb 3, 2010, 00:00

A FORMER priest who sexually abused a young boy over 30 years ago and fled the country before gardaí could interview him has been jailed for one year by Judge Katherine Delahunt.

At at a previous sitting before yesterday’s sentencing, the court heard that gardaí attempting to investigate the abuse were “given the run-around by church authorities” in their efforts to locate the priest for questioning.

Patrick Hughes (82), of Park Drive Court, Castleknock, Dublin, pleaded guilty at the Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of indecent assault against the child, then an altar boy aged between 11 and 14 years, on dates between 1979 and 1983. The maximum penalty for the offence is two years.

Det Sgt Joseph McLoughlin told Judge Delahunt that gardaí located Hughes in England on a tip-off more than 10 years after first being made aware of the allegations. Hughes told gardaí in 2007 that he was sexually attracted to altar boys at a time when he had neglected himself spiritually, but after counselling in the US he was no longer attracted to altar boys. He said he was sorry and that it was out of character for him.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the accused, who has no previous convictions, told gardaí he remembered the boy, and admitted touching him inappropriately. He said his memory was not great and he expressed remorse.

Judge Delahunt congratulated Det Sgt McLoughlin for his perseverance and the manner in which he ensured the case came to court, commenting that he was “nearly going beyond the call of duty”.

She said the offences had represented a “gross breach of trust”, before describing Hughes’s comment to gardaí that “it was an altar boy thing” as strange.

Judge Delahunt acknowledged that “adverse publicity” had caused Hughes to flee Ireland, but noted that he had sought rehabilitation and treatment while out of the jurisdiction, and had made a voluntary statement on his return.

She accepted that his plea of guilty had “saved the victim the horror of having to relive” the abuse, and that he had since shown remorse for his actions.

Remy Farrell, defending, read from a statement prepared by Hughes in which he “profoundly apologises for the distress I have caused this gentleman and his family”.

“I wandered off into the desert which was a lonely place, but now I feel I am back again,” Hughes stated in relation to the six months of rehabilitation he has undergone, after saying that he would “ever be grateful to those who have helped me turn my shattered life around”.

Det Sgt McLoughlin had told Pieter Le Vert, prosecuting, that the boy was abused by the man in a parochial house, on trips to the beach and in his car. The abuse consisted of fondling the boy’s genital area. The priest took photographs of the boy in swimwear and showed him “mild” pornography.

The boy also reported the priest giving him £5 on one occasion, and taking locks of his hair.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the boy’s mother asked him whether he had been abused some years later after she read a newspaper story about Hughes, and he broke down and told her what had happened to him. He told Mr Farrell, during cross-examination, that a complaint was made to gardaí in 1995 but that the investigation “ran into the sand”.

He said the victim contacted the Garda Commissioner in 2002 to check on the status of the case, but efforts to locate the accused man had proved fruitless.

Det Sgt McLoughlin agreed with Mr Farrell that gardaí were “getting the run-around from church authorities”.

He said they were initially unable to locate the accused man through the Archbishop’s Palace, but that a “liaison priest” contacted him in 2003 and said the accused wished to speak to gardaí. He said that a few days before a meeting was to take place he received a call to say the accused would not be attending.

He said this was the last he heard about the man’s location, and efforts to find him were unsuccessful until gardaí received the tip-off and made contact in 2007.