Nun cleared of sex charges

 

A 62 year old nun wept after being found not guilty of indecently assaulting seven young girls more than 35 years ago.

Sister Mary Teresa Grogan bowed her head and cried as Judge Donagh McDonagh gave his ruling . The nun formerly known as Sister 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 her counsel Geraldine Biggs.

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 Sligo Circuit 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.

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, also broke down and was comforted by her husband. The other complainants were visibly upset after the sitting.

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”.

In his ruling 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.

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 that 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 tenous 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.

After the ruling Sr Grogan embraced her counsel. In a statement the Sisters of Mercy said the criminal trial had been “very difficult for everyone involved”.

It added: "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 today. 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”.

The complainants, all now married and in their mid-40s, had told the jury of seven women and five men that the nun placed her hand inside their underwear and indecently assaulted them in the classroom.

Sr Grogan, joined the Sisters of Mercy in 1966 and studied at Carysfort College between 1968 and 1970.

She taught at the midlands school from 1971 until 1985 and was principal between 1982 and 1985. She joined the missions in Zambia in 1990.