Nun not guilty of indecent assault charges

Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 00:00

A teaching nun has been found not guilty of indecently assaulting seven girls at a primary school in the midlands more than 35 years ago.

Sr Mary Teresa Grogan (62) bowed her head and cried as Judge Donagh McDonagh gave his ruling yesterday at Sligo Circuit Court.

The nun formerly known as Sr Peter, had been on trial charged with 63 counts of indecent assault. She was found not guilty on each count by direction of the judge following legal submissions by Geraldine Biggs, defending.

Judge McDonagh withdrew the case from the jury on a number of grounds, including inconsistencies in evidence and a lack of corroboration in some areas.

The seven complainants, who had told the court that they were abused while being taught by the nun in a primary school in the midlands, were all in the courthouse yesterday. The assaults were alleged to have taken place between 1973 and 1977 when the complainants were in third class and were being taught by Sr Grogan.

The complainants, all now married and in their 40s, had told the jury that the nun placed her hand inside their underwear and indecently assaulted them in the classroom.

After the judge delivered his 45-minute ruling, one of the women who had accused her former teacher of indecently assaulting her, and who was sitting directly behind her in the public gallery, broke down and was comforted by her husband.

The judge, who said his decision was not easily arrived at, said there was no doubt in his mind that passage of time had seriously affected the memory of some complainants.

Referring to the risk of “cross-contamination” when events happened so long ago, Judge McDonagh said he would hesitate to use the term “collusion”.

The judge said it was impossible to believe that events of such significance in the lives of these woman had not been the subject of conversation.

Inconsistencies

Referring to the evidence of some complainants that the nun had told the other children to “teigh a chodladh” (go to sleep) while she indecently assaulted them at her desk, Judge McDonagh said this was not mentioned in some Garda statements but “it emerges mysteriously in evidence”.

The judge also referred to inconsistencies which he said had rendered evidence “weak in certain aspects and tenuous in others”.

The trial, which had been transferred to Sligo at the request of the defence, had lasted for three weeks, with four days this week devoted to legal submissions made in the absence of the jury.

In a statement the Sisters of Mercy said the criminal trial had been “very difficult” for everyone involved.

“Sr Grogan has always denied these charges and asserted her innocence throughout the period of seven years since these allegations were first made against her.”

The nun made no comment as she left the court yesterday with a supporter who had accompanied her throughout the three-week trial.

The jury had heard that in a statement to gardaí she had described the allegations as “repulsive”. When the complaints were put to her she said: “From the depths of my being I cannot accept that.”

Sr Grogan joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1966 and studied at Carysfort College in Blackrock, Co Dublin, between 1968 and 1970. She taught at the midlands school for several years where she was principal between 1982 and 1985. She later served in the missions.