Man found guilty of sexual assault on boy over 35 years ago

 

A FORMER student priest has been found guilty by a jury of the sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in Galway city over 35 years ago.

Gerard Cleere, Kilkenny, who was extradited from Leicester in England last December to stand trial, had denied he buggered the child on an unknown date between January 1st, 1973, and December 30th, 1974. He did, however, plead guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to indecent assault.

Judge Raymond Groarke yesterday adjourned sentencing to July 13th and he remanded Cleere in continuing custody. He directed the preparation of a victim impact statement to be made available to the court before sentencing.

The two-day trial heard evidence that Cleere had been a first-year probationary priest at the Redemptorist monastery at Cluain Mhuire in Mervue in Galway city in 1972 and 1973.

The victim, now aged 46, told the jury of four men and seven women that he and his friends used to play handball in the four handball alleys which were owned by the Redemptorists at Cluain Mhuire, near his home.

He said Cleere often came to watch them play and over time began playing with them. He befriended the then 10-year-old victim and began calling regularly to the child’s home in Mervue. He called to his home one day unexpectedly when the boy was alone.

The victim broke down in the witness box when he recalled how he had sustained a leg and groin injury the day beforehand while playing football. He was sitting at the fire in the kitchen when the accused, who was then aged 18 or 19, came in. The victim said Cleere examined his leg and groin injury before sexually assaulting him.

What had happened to him that day had haunted him for many years, he said. The sex abuse revelations in the 1990s had stirred up the memory but it had taken until 2007 for him to feel strong enough to go to the Garda and make a formal complaint.

Garda Insp Michael Coppinger told the jury he interviewed Cleere in England in 2007. While he had denied the allegation of buggery, he had said he was sorry for what he did to the boy and admitted indecently assaulting him.