Belfast Telegraph

Ex-priest to serve lengthy jail term over sex offences

A paedophile former priest has been warned he faces a sentence “of some length” after he was convicted of more offences.

Already found guilty of 19 sex offences spanning 17 years, including indecent assault and attempted buggery, the Belfast Crown Court jury of nine men and three women yesterday convicted 53-year-old James Martin Donaghy of a further three charges of indecent assault and one of attempted buggery.

They also acquitted Donaghy of common assault and told trial Judge Patrick Lynch QC they would not be able to reach verdicts on two remaining charges of indecent assault and attempted buggery.

Although the judge commented that “it would not be in the interests of anyone” for a further trial given the 23 offences for which Donaghy has been found guilty, the priest will find out today if a retrial will take place on the final two counts.

They related to one of the victims, Father Patrick McCafferty. The others were former altar boy James Doherty and a former trainee priest who cannot be named.

As the jury, who deliberated for a marathon 10-and-a-half hours over the last three days, returned their verdicts, Donaghy remained impassive in the dock while relatives in the gallery either wept or shook their heads in disbelief.

Defence QC Eugene Grant made a bail application to the judge for Donaghy to be released pending reports so he could enjoy Christmas with his family and his niece's wedding on New Year's Eve, but Judge Lynch refused.

Remanding Donaghy into custody Judge Lynch said it would be a “dereliction of the court’s duty” to release a man convicted of sex offences, especially given the “temptation” he may feel to flee as he faces a “custodial sentence of some length”.

As he was lead to the cells in handcuffs, his niece blew him kisses and mouthed the words “I love you” while family members comforted each other.

The jury's verdicts came at the end of an almost five-week long hearing where they heard “difficult and distasteful evidence”.

Over the course of the hearing, three victims gave evidence against the “domineering and controlling” priest.

Yesterday Judge Lynch told the jury that before he proceeds to hand down the “inevitable” jail term, reports would be compiled both on Donaghy and his victims.



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