Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

No sex abuse inquiry against priest because complaint was not made

Police confirmed they would not have investigated claims of sex abuse against a priest because they didn’t receive a complaint from the victim.

Disgraced priest Fr John McCullagh made an out-of-court settlement in 2000 when he paid £12,000 of his own money and wrote a letter of apology to a woman from the Derry Diocese, who accused him of abusing her between 1979 and 1989.

Questions have been asked as to why police did not pursue McCullagh after the Bishop of Derry, Dr Seamus Hegarty, said he met with the RUC to discuss allegations against the priest.

The incident wasn’t reported to the police until 1995 when two detectives called with the family of the girl making the allegations. They were told by the girl’s father that she was not in a fit state to give a statement. There was no return visit.

A PSNI spokeswoman told the Belfast Telegraph that protocols for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse had changed since 1995. While she would not comment on the McCullagh case specifically she said: “At that time police would not have been in a position to investigate if the victim was not willing to pursue a formal complaint.

“Since then protocols have been put in place that allow police to make further inquiries in relation to these matters.”

Helena Bracken, director of Nexus in Londonderry, which gives support to victims of sexual abuse, said she believes there is still too much emphasis on getting victims to make a formal statement to police.

She said: “I believe that things need to change whereby the police, if they receive information from organisations such as Nexus should be able to progress the investigation without being totally dependent on a first hand statement at least in the early stages. Too many sex abusers are slipping through the net because of the way things are handled currently.”

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