June 2002

Priest jailed for abusing girls

A Roman Catholic priest has been jailed for nine months for sexually abusing three young girls in his care.

Father John Gerard Flahive, who was convicted of four counts of indecent assault in April, showed no emotion as he was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court.

Flahive had denied 10 counts of indecent assault said to have been committed on five teenagers between 1973 and 1990.

Following the sentence the archbishop of Birmingham apologised for the “damage” done by the priest’s misuse of the trust placed in him.

‘Profound sorrow’

Sentencing the priest on Thursday Judge Laurence Marshall said Flahive “broke the trust that everybody must look for from a priest”.

He ordered the 52-year-old clergyman to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

The allegations date back to a period when Flahive held posts in Walsall and Birmingham.

The court heard that Flahive had set up several youth groups and choirs where his victims had been drawn from.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said: “I wish to express my profound sorrow and regret at the damage done by Father Flahive, most of all to those he assaulted.

“I sincerely apologise to those who, in their youth, looked to him with trust, only to have that trust misused.

“I hope that the finding of the court helps them to come to terms with these events, which took place so long ago and yet will have remained as a constant burden to them.

“From the first moment I learned that serious accusations had been brought against Father Flahive, he and the Archdiocese of Birmingham have co-operated fully with the authorities.

Canonical hearing

The archbishop said the trial represented a moment of great sadness for what had happened and the burdens borne by the victims for so many years.

“My prayers and support will continue for all those who have been caught up in these events, including Father Flahive, who must now accept his sentence,” he said.

The priest was cleared of five charges involving two girls and the jury was discharged from giving a verdict on a further charge, at the trial in April.

Flahive, who was ordained in 1975, was put on “administrative leave” as priest of St Thomas More Church, Sheldon, Birmingham, when the allegations came to light in October 2000.