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Brother of priest avoids jail for abuse of altar boy

By Ashleigh McDonald

A priest's brother, who sexually abused an altar boy while volunteering at the Clonard Novena, has been spared a jail sentence.

Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that Martin Cassidy is currently taking chemical castration medication at his own request.

He was placed on probation for three years after he admitted abusing the altar boy in 1988.

The 67-year-old from Orchard Mews in Belfast - who hasn't worked in 40 years and has a criminal record including 13 previous sexual offences - was also made the subject of a five-year Sexual Offenders Prevention Order and will be on the Sexual Offenders Register for the same period.

Passing sentence, Judge Patricia Smyth revealed that Cassidy's last sexual offending was committed in 1990 and said she felt the public would be best protected by the pensioner participating in the Sex Offenders Treatment Programme as part of his probation.

The court heard that Cassidy targeted his 14 year-old victim in the summer of 1988 during the Clonard Novena, where he was volunteering at the request of his brother, who at the time was a priest.

Cassidy singled out the altar boy and engaged the teenager in "sexual conversation" before abusing him in an isolated area.

He subsequently admitted two offences arising from the incident, namely indecently assaulting a male and gross indecency with a child.

Judge Smyth said that after reading the victim impact report, it was clear the victim "carried a heavy burden for many years" before disclosing what occurred.

Sentencing Cassidy, the judge said she was taking into account the lasting impact which events in his childhood have had on him.

Judge Smyth also noted Cassidy's "significant" criminal record, which included over a dozen sexual offences, and said that since his last offence 26 years ago, Cassidy had been "taking steps to ensure he doesn't re-offend", including taking medication which had the effect of chemical castration.

Cassidy was handed a three-year probation order, which will include attending programmes to address his sexual offending.

Judge Smyth warned Cassidy that if he re-offends within the three-year period, he will be jailed for nine months.

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