August 2007

‘Wicked’ priest jailed for child sex abuse

A Catholic priest who sexually abused a total of eleven children in what a judge called “wicked” crimes has today been jailed for over five years.

Fr Edmund Cotter effectively used his authority to silence his victims so that they were too frightened to report his offending.

One girl was told he was like God and that if she was not good she would burn in Hell.

Some of the abuse took place during church meetings where youngsters were called “special ones” and told not to discuss anything which occured there.

The offences came to light some years later when one victim, by then married, learned he was at a church in Cumbria, which had a primary school and she was worried pupils there might be at risk.

The 60-year-old priest of Ulverston Road, Dalton, who now faces being sacked, admitted 13 charges of indecent assault, most dating back to the 1970s.

Some took place while he was parish priest at St Gregory’s Church, Preston, and others while he was at St Anthony’s, also in Preston.

Miss Hilary Banks, prosecuting, said matters came to light in April last year after one victim, a nurse from Preston, learned the defendant was a priest at a Cumbrian church that had an associated primary school.

She became concerned children there might be at risk.

She had been too scared to report the matter when a child, thinking no-one would believe a priest would behave in such a manner.

Fr Cotter later told police that after offences had occured, he went to confession because he felt terrible.

Abuse took place at meetings of a church group where he told members not to discuss anything that occured there and also said “Our Lady is watching”.

One victim described Cotter as having been a Pied Piper who had hypnotised him.

Defence barrister Rick Holland said the offences were heinous, but there was another side to the priest, who had done many good works.

Cotter now had deep regret and contrition.

Judge Anthony Russell QC imposed a sentence of five years and two months prison and banned him from working with children, with a direction for him to go on the sex offenders list for life. He said Cotter had targetted vulnerable victims who were incapable of resisting his advances.

He added: “You used your authority as a priest to effectively silence your victims so they were too frightened to report what was going on.

“You have betrayed your calling as a priest.

“These were wicked offences”.