Justice catches up with abuser but victim's life is still on hold


Victim and garda who acted to have abuser removed see justice at last, write ALISON HEALYand PATSY MCGARRY

FR THOMAS Naughton didn’t look like a man with the power to ruin a child’s life as he shuffled into court yesterday.

The frail 78-year-old priest leaned on his walking stick as he approached Bray courthouse, and his ill-fitting trousers flapped pitifully about his ankles.

He appeared to shrink visibly when he was met with a barrage of cameras at the entrance. “Do you feel any sense of guilt? Do you feel any sense of shame?” a reporter barked at him and he cowed away.

But in 1982, he was “a big man” to his six-year-old victim, who was then an altar boy. He estimated that Naughton had sexually assaulted him up to 70 times over a two-year period.

He was intimidated by the priest, who told him he would get in trouble if he told anyone about the abuse. Judge Michael O’Shea described the abuse as “absolutely catastrophic” to the boy’s life.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be normal,” the victim said plaintively in a statement read out by prosecuting barrister Paul Murray.

Naughton bowed his head low when the victim impact statement was read out. After the abuse started, the victim went into himself and avoided talking about it to anyone. “I was afraid of getting close to people,” he said. Any relationships he formed never lasted long.

He had issues with intimacy and said he could never imagine settling down in a normal relationship with a girl. He was sexually confused and was receiving treatment for sexual addiction. “I didn’t know what way I was supposed to be.”

He became extremely paranoid and attempted suicide in 1999 and 2001. He made a breakthrough in 2006 when he began seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed post traumatic stress disorder and depression. However, he has been unable to hold down a full-time job since August 2006 and currently lives on disability benefit.

The victim, accompanied by supporters, slipped into court quietly as the case began and left quickly afterwards without commenting on the outcome.

But the imprisonment of Naughton was welcomed by retired detective sergeant John Brennan, who had come to see justice being served. A resident of Valleymount, Co Wicklow, he had taken action to have Naughton removed after parents complained about him.

“I think it’s wonderful,” he said. “That’s the wrong word really, I suppose – but that justice is seen to be done at this late stage after 25 years, a quarter of a century; that a man can be brought here and that justice can be seen to be done after that length of time.”

His own family had suffered after the priest was removed from the parish.

“We were ostracised out of everything really, anything to do with the church. I was chairman of the senior citizens’ committee. I was secretary of the development of the hall. I was on the school board of management. I was very much involved. Suddenly I found that . . . we were being maligned.”

The family received anonymous letters and excrement was posted through their letter box, but he didn’t believe parishioners were behind these incidents.

“What’s not widely known is that there were other paedophiles in west Wicklow at the time. There was the Fr [Noel] Reynolds in Glendalough and Fr Frank McCarthy in Dunlavin,” he said.

“I took some of the letters to a handwriting expert and they said they were written by an educated hand, though disguised to look like it wasn’t an educated hand. I was pretty sure they were coming from other clergy in the area rather than the locals.”

Mr Brennan is now calling for a criminal investigation into the way Naughton’s superiors moved him around, despite their knowledge of the abuse.

“If there is neglect and evidence of a cover-up it shouldn’t be a question of somebody resigning. They should be subject of a criminal charge,” he said.