Priest found not guilty of sex assault

 

A 73-YEAR-OLD retired priest in the diocese of Cloyne was yesterday found not guilty by a jury of indecently assaulting a woman when she was a 14-year-old girl in his house in north Cork more than 30 years ago.

Fr Daniel Duane of the Presbytery, Cecilstown, Mallow, Co Cork, had denied the single charge that he had indecently assaulted the young girl when she visited him at a parish house at Bellvue, Mallow, in the summer of 1980.

Yesterday at Cork Circuit Criminal Court, the jury of seven men and five women took 85 minutes to unanimously find Fr Duane innocent of the charge after hearing some two days of evidence in the case.

Fr Duane put his head down on the front barrier of the dock at Courtroom 1 in the Washington Street Courthouse and wept as the verdict was read out, while the complainant broke down in tears and later collapsed in distress as she left the courtroom.

The jury asked during their deliberations when the woman had reported the matter to gardaí and when she had instructed a solicitor to seek compensation, and they were told she contacted gardaí in June 2009 and instructed her solicitor to seek compensation in October 2009.

During the trial, the complainant told the court Fr Duane had sexually assaulted her in the sittingroom of the house in Bell- vue when she went to talk to him about how she felt a black sheep in her family compared to her siblings, who were more academic.

She said he had eased her into a lying position on a sofa and then put his hands up her legs, sexually assaulted her and whispered that God approved of what he was doing.

The woman could not remember the exact date or time of day that this happened but she remembered she was wearing white sandals and a white dress of which she was very proud, and when she looked down she discovered the dress had been stained.

She said she was upset about the dress and wondered how she was going to get into her home without anyone noticing the stain on it.

She managed to sneak into the bathroom at home and washed the dress in the sink with soap.

Fr Duane took the stand to deny the accusation. At first he said he had no recollection of it ever happening, before saying he trusted his memory and that it never happened.

He said he believed the woman had invented the story.

Fr Duane said the woman had begun visiting him as part of a group of girls who would call to the house for chats and that she later visited him on her own four or five times, but those visits did not start until 1984 when she was 18, and not in 1980 when she was aged 14.

Fr Duane was acquitted last May of indecently assaulting another teenage girl at Bellvue in Mallow in the early 1980s, when Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin directed a jury to acquit him after reviewing the totality of the evidence against him in that case.

A spokesman for the diocese of Cloyne said Fr Duane has been forbidden from exercising any public ministry since 2006, which means he cannot wear clerical garb or carry out any priestly duties in public.

He can say Mass in his home, but not to a congregation.