It was an altar boy thing, says paedophile priest

A former Irish priest who told gardai he was sexually attracted to altar boys was jailed for one year for indecently assaulting a child.

Patrick Hughes, 82, of Park Drive Court, Castleknock, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four counts of indecent assault against the child, then an altar boy.

The boy was aged between 11 and 14 years old when he was abused in a parochial house, on trips to the beach and in the former priest's home on dates between 1979 and 1983.

Yesterday, Judge Katherine Delahunt said Hughes' comments on altar boys were strange, before jailing him for 12 months. The maximum penalty for the offence is two years.

The former priest fled the country because of "adverse publicity" before gardai could interview him, the court heard.

The court heard during the initial sentence hearing last October that gardai attempting to investigate the abuse were "given the run-around by church authorities" in their efforts to locate Hughes for questioning.

Detective Sergeant Joseph McLoughlin told Judge Delahunt gardai located Hughes in England because of a tip-off, 10 years after first being made aware of the allegations.

Judge Delahunt congratulated Det Sgt McLoughlin yesterday for his perseverance and the manner in which he ensured the case came to court, commenting that he was "nearly going beyond the call of duty".

She said the offences had represented a "gross breach of trust" before she described his comment to gardai that "it was an altar boy thing" as strange.

Judge Delahunt acknowledged that "adverse publicity" had caused Hughes to flee Ireland but noted that he had sought rehabilitation and treatment while out of the jurisdiction and had made a voluntary statement when he returned.

Det Sgt McLoughlin told prosecution counsel Pieter Le Vert that the boy was abused by the man in a parochial house, on trips to the beach and in his car. The priest also took photographs of the boy in swimwear and showed him pornography.

The boy also reported the priest giving him £5 on one occasion and taking locks of his hair.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the boy's mother asked him some years later if he had been abused after she read a newspaper story about Hughes and he broke down and told her what had happened to him.

He told Mr Farrell, during cross-examination, that a complaint was made to gardai in 1995 but that the investigation "ran into the sand".

He said the victim contacted the Garda Commissioner in 2002 to check on the status of the case but efforts to locate the accused proved fruitless.

Det Sgt McLoughlin agreed with Mr Farrell that gardai were "getting the run-around from church authorities". He said they were initially unable to locate the accused man through the Archbishop's Palace but a "liaison priest" contacted him in 2003 and said the accused wished to speak to gardai.

However, he said that a few days before the meeting was due to take place he received a call to say the accused would not be attending. That was the last he heard about his location and efforts to find him were unsuccessful until gardai received a tip-off and made contact with the man in 2007.

Hughes told gardai in 2007 that he was sexually attracted to altar boys at a time in his life when he had neglected himself spiritually. But following counselling he received in the US, he said he was no longer attracted to altar boys.

Det Sgt McLoughlin said the accused told gardai he remembered the boy and admitted touching him inappropriately.

Source: Irish Independent