Belfast Telegraph

Former Catholic priest to be sentenced for sexually abusing altar boy in Co Down

By John Cassidy

A disgraced former Catholic priest will learn next week if he is to serve any more time in custody after he admitted sexually a young altar boy at his family cottage in Co Down over 20 years ago.

Reserving his decision today (Thursday) at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Piers Grant told Daniel Curran that he will pass sentence on Monday, March 23.

Curran (64), of Bryansford Avenue, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to one count of gross indecency towards a male child and also admitted a single charge of indecent assault on the same victim.

 The offences took place between August 1990 and August 1993 at a cottage owned by his family in the seaside village of Tyrella, Co Down when the victim aged between seven and ten.

Prosecution QC David McDowell told the court that the victim was a pupil of a primary school in north Belfast when he was aged around seven years old.

"The victim says that Father Curran came to the school and asked the teacher if he wanted to become an alter and serve at St Paul's Church. He then started to go on trips with a number of other boys and they would have barbecues and also go to Castlewellan. He was flattered by the invitation to go on these trips.''

Mr McDowell said that Curran took the boys to a small family cottage in Tyrella, a small seaside village just a few miles outside of Downpatrick.

 "The victim describes that the house had one bedroom which had one massive bedroom and all the boys slept together in the bed with Fr Curran.

 "On this occasion there were three older boys with him and Fr Curran provided the older boys with cider and they in turn gave it to the complainant. Fr Curran was drinking the cider with them. "He later woke to find that Fr Curran had moved in the bed and Fr Curran was lying behind in a spoons position.''

The victim, who is now aged 31, told police that Curran then indecently assaulted him and forced him to sexually touch the paedophile priest.

 "The complainant said that he made an excuse that he needed the toilet, to which Fr Curran replied: 'You have been a good boy'.

 "He then went outside through the front door to go to the toilet in the rain. He described being cold, wet and crying but had nowhere else to go.

"He got back into bed but there was no further touching. Fr Curran then drove them back home the next day.''

Judge Grant was told that the offences came to light in March, 2014 when the victim told his wife about the abuse he suffered at the hands of Fr Curran.

 "He explained to her that he felt that the time was right to tell what had happened to him. It is apparent the victim is a very private person and didn't want to take part in a victim impact report for these proceedings.''

  Mr McDowell QC told the court that Curran had "breached the great trust in which his parents had placed in him by allowing their son to go with Fr Curran''.

 The judge was told that Curran was interviewed in August 2014 about the latest complaint that he had sexually abused a seven-year-old altar boy in the cottage.

  "He told police that he didn't think that there had been one as young as that.''

  Noel Dillon, defending, said that Curran was remorseful for his conduct even though he has no recollection of the incident.

"He could not remember it all. He is not saying that he had committed these offences or saying that he had not committed these offences. It is simply that he cannot remember because at that time he was an alcoholic and alcohol was a large factor in what happened.

 "He can only imagine the awful damage he has done to this boy and offers his apology to this boy.''

The defence barrister said Curran stopped taking alcohol in 1994 and there had been no further offending and had co-operated fully with all supervision orders that he had been subjected to.

Mr Dillon urged Judge Grant not to return Curran to custody given that he had served the equivalent of a 21 year and eight month sentence for his previous catalogue of sexual abuse of young boys in his care..

 He asked that Curran be dealt with either by way of a conditional discharged or a suspended sentence so that he "would have something hanging over him.''

"He is now 64. He is the sole carer for his wheelchair bound brother and I would urge Your Honour not to return him to custody,'' added Mr Dillon.

Judge Grant told Curran: "I will sentence you on Monday. You are released on continuing bail.''

The judge will also decide on whether Curran will be the subject of a further Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO).

 When Curran appears back in the dock on Monday, it will be the fifth time that he will be sentenced for crimes of a similar nature relating to the same incident at the cottage.

The court heard that Curran was first sentenced in 1995 to seven years in custody. In 2005, he received a 18 month sentence suspended for three years.

The following year, the priest was handed down a 14 month sentence and in 2012 received a four year sentence which was later reduced to three years by the Court of Appeal.

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