Former chaplain claims ‘revenge’ behind girl’s sex assault allegations

Ex-priest denies wrongdoing during Gambia school trip

A former priest being sued in the High Court for alleged sexual assault and abuse of a teenager in a school where he was chaplain told a school disciplinary hearing "revenge for not going with her" was the motivation behind the claims.

At that hearing in 2012, the man, who left the priesthood some years ago, denied any sexual activity took place at the girl’s home when her parents were away; when she was babysitting for a neighbour, in the chaplain’s office, the oratory or his car.

He also told the hearing he at one stage pleaded with the girl to stop and and rejected her by telling her to “f*** off”. “I wanted to get out from under her clutches,” he said.

In her High Court proceedings, the now 28-year old woman alleges that between 2004 and 2007 she was repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted, falsely imprisoned and sexually abused, and subjected to sexualised behaviour by the then Catholic chaplain, who was also a teacher in her secondary school.


Aggravated damages

She has sued the man for damages, including aggravated damages. She has also sued the school and the local bishop, who have also denied liability.

The school contends it is not vicariously liable for any alleged actions of the priest and contends the diocesan bishop is liable.

Among her claims is that, during a school trip to Gambia when she was aged 16, the chaplain invited her and another student to sleep in his bed with him. The three of them spent the night together in his bed, she has claimed.

The then priest was very attentive to her on the trip and afterwards sent her private text messages which became increasingly personal and sexual in nature, she claims.

She alleges he bought a mobile phone for the specific purpose of texting her and allegedly advised her they would wait until she was 17 before they could take the relationship further.

She claims, a few days after she turned 17, he brought her and some friends to the cinema and kissed her when he took her home.

The court was told the woman first made her allegations in 2011 and a disciplinary hearing at the school was held in October 2012.

In a transcript of that read to the court, the man told the hearing the motivation behind the allegations was “revenge for not going with her”.

He said: “I see obsession all over this.”

Gambia allegations

Referring to the Gambia allegations, he said about 15 students were picked to go on the school trip. He said he let students use the shower attached to his room but that was in the context of returning after a day and being covered in red dirt and had “nothing to do with anything of a sexual nature”.

Addressing the allegation the girl and another student were in his bed with him once in Gambia, he said he woke up and saw somebody beside him and he jumped out of the bed, opened the door and asked them to leave. At no point were they there at his invitation, he said.

He also said he had brought students on about 40 trips and nothing like that happened before. He said he never had sex with the girl or any other student and denied he told the plaintiff he once went to the Phoenix Park and had sex with a woman in a car.

“I have only been in the Phoenix Park three times at the zoo, the papal Mass and running a marathon,” the transcript read.

The case before Mr Justice Robert Eagar continues on Friday.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times