Priest's claim of innocence is a lie, jury is told in child sex abuse case

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A Catholic priest accused of sex attacks on schoolchildren lied when protesting his innocence, it was claimed in court yesterday.

Evidence from the complainants - four women and two men - had clearly shown identical features in the way they were indecently assaulted by Fr John Lloyd, it was said.

Richard Twomlow, for the prosecution, told the jury at Cardiff Crown Court, that it was not a case where an accidental touching by the priest could have been misinterpreted years later.

"This is a case where someone is telling you lies. The prosecution say the person who is telling the lies is the defendant."

Fr Lloyd, 57, denies four charges of rape and 17 counts of indecent assault on pupils aged between eight and 13. The offences are alleged to have taken place over an 18-year period from 1970, when Fr Lloyd was working in parishes in South Wales.

The court has heard one woman claim that as a nine-year-old she was raped more than 20 times by Fr Lloyd as he heard lunchtime confessions at her primary school.

Mr Twomlow told the jury the woman had no other reason for making a complaint years later except to tell the truth about what happened.

"Why else should she come forward with the prospect of a hearing as public as this one, to be cross-examined, to be accused of fantasising ... unless of course it is true?"

Earlier, several of his former parishioners appeared as defence witnesses for Fr Lloyd, currently on leave from St Joseph's Church, Penarth, near Cardiff. The priest was described by teacher Ruth Flanagan as "the nicest person I have ever seen with children".

Mrs Flanagan, who attended Fr Lloyd's church at St Mary's, Chepstow, Gwent, said youngsters would flock to his side whenever he appeared at school.

Altar boys would also quarrel over who should be allowed to serve at the services he conducted. Children had a good relationship with him and enjoyed his company, she added. She never saw anything to make her think he ever behaved improperly towards them.

"He came across as a father figure. I think the children saw him as a person of strength, civility and decency," she added.

The trial was adjourned until today when the defence counsel, Ian Murphy QC, will make his closing speech.