A convicted sex offender who indecently assaulted a disabled teenager has won a £15,000 payout from the Catholic Church. James Lee, 54, got his hands on the cash after saying he had been molested as a teenager in the De La Salle Boys Home, Kircubbin, Co Down.
Lee's allegations were never proven in court, but the Dublin-based De La Salle order sanctioned the huge secret pay-out.
And Lee received the bumper payment in February this year — eight months after he himself was convicted of a sex crime.
Northern Ireland's Sunday Life newspaper called to Lee's Hannahstown home earlier this week.
They wanted to know if he would consider donating his newly acquired £15,000 to the wheelchair-bound boy he abused.
But Lee, a street trader who flogs goods outside pop concerts, refused to talk to them at his semi-detached house in Hawthorn View.
Instead his wife came out to confront their reporter.
Despite her husband's conviction she denied he was a sex abuser and said media interest in the case had driven her to the brink of suicide.
“I've been tortured. My windows have been broken and my car has been paint-bombed. I'm ready for a nervous breakdown or to drive my car into the Lagan,” said Lee's wife.
“It wasn't abuse that he was done for. James is going to appeal.”
In June last year Lee was sentenced to three months in jail and put on the sex offenders' register for seven years for indecently assaulting a disabled 17-year-old boy.
The youth was confronted by Lee after going into the public toilets at Castle Court shopping centre to change out of his school uniform to prepare for a job interview.
Lee blocked his exit and grabbed his thigh. The youth eventually managed to break free and alert his friends.
After his conviction, Lee told a local newspaper: “I’m not denying I touched that teenager’s leg, but I thought he wanted me to do it. I thought it was consensual.
“I would describe myself as bisexual, I can’t really remember what happened, but I did touch him. I’m not to going to say sorry for something like that.” Less than a month after appearing in court Lee was in trouble again.
This time he was cautioned by police for stalking a teenager.
Victims of clerical abuse have criticised the church's decision to award the convicted sex offender £15,000. Jean Carson, whose son Paul Anthony Carson committed suicide after being abused by west Belfast church sexton Martin Kerr, said: “He won't get any sympathy from me because he's become an abuser. He shouldn't have got a penny.
“I'm sick of hearing the old chestnut that abuse leads to abuse. I know loads of cases where this isn't the case,” added Jean.
The De La Salle order has never admitted child abuse took place at its boys’ home at Rubane House, Kircubbin.
But it has made a number of out-of-court payments to men who claimed they were abused by monks while at the Kircubbin home. Belfast man John Leathem, who was abused at the same care home, sees the order's pay-out as an admission of guilt.
He asked: “Why pay money out if nothing happened? By doing this they are accepting abuse occurred.” Sunday Life has seen a copy of a letter sent by De La Salle to James Lee.
In a letter to Lee, alongside his £15,000 cheque, De La Salle's Brother Francis Manning wrote: “The De La Salle Order was founded to care for abandoned, disadvantaged and deprived boys and regrets if any boy was abused while under its care.”
Sunday Life asked De La Salle did it know Lee was a convicted sex offender when it paid him £15,000, and if it now accepted child abuse occurred at Kircubbin.
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