Belfast Telegraph

Police drop abuse case against Northern Ireland priest

A Catholic priest who was forced to step down from public ministry after an allegation of indecent assault is no longer the subject of a police inquiry.

Fr Paul Symonds (65), who received an OBE for his cross-community work, was investi-gated by police after allegations were made against him which dated back to the 1970s.

The allegations were of sexual abuse having been committed against a boy under the age of 16 in the Lancashire area, when Fr Symonds was living in England.

He was originally arrested in November 2009 by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of indecent assault as the claimant was living in London at the time.

Lancashire Constabulary confirmed last night that it was no longer investigating the matter and they were taking no further action against the clergyman.

The priest was never charged with any offence but voluntarily stepped down as curate of the parish of Kirkinriola in Ballymena while the inquiry was continuing. He had been based in north Belfast, and later at Newtownbreda, before being sent to the Ballymena area.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Down and Connor last night said they had not received confirmation of any developments in relation to Fr Symonds case.

“Following confirmation, the matter of Fr Symonds will be |reviewed and considered by the diocese safeguarding committee and we will be following the national guidelines on safeguarding,” the spokesman said.

During his time in Ballymena, Fr Symonds worked tirelessly to bring communities together and played a leading role in helping to remove loyalist graffiti at Harryville.

He was awarded an OBE in 2007 for his “leadership role in engaging with people across barriers of denomination and background”.

At the time, the priest said he was shocked to receive the award.

Fr Symonds said: “I did not expect it and it came as a total surprise.

“My whole life has been dedicated to building relationships and some 20 years ago I felt a strong vocation to come to Northern Ireland and to do what I could to improve community relations.”

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