An 82-year-old Catholic priest who was shielded by the church authorities during a garda investigation has been jailed for a year for indecently assaulting a young boy in the 1970s and 80s.
Fr Patrick Hughes of Park Drive Court, Castleknock, in Dublin, pleaded guilty to the offences and apologised to his victim.
The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the Catholic Church authorities gave gardaí ‘the run around’ when they were investigating the whereabouts of Fr Hughes.
Following widespread publicity about the priest, he left the country in 2002 and was located by gardaí in the UK in 2007.
Gardaí agreed that the church authorities had given them ‘something of the run around’ in efforts to locate him.
Counsel for Fr Hughes, Remy Farrell, said the church had been ‘reluctant to deal with the matter in a candid fashion’ but when Fr Hughes was approached by gardaí in the UK he took a different view.
He indecently assaulted an altar boy in the 1970s and 80s at a parochial house and during trips to the beach. He also intercepted him on journeys to school and abused him in his car. The victim told gardaí he had changed his bus stop and his journey times but the priest still managed to find him.
The court heard that the priest would ring the boy’s mother and ask if he could come to his house to do odd jobs. He would also take him on trips to the beach.
In statements to gardaí Fr Hughes said he was not a paedophile. He ‘was only attracted to altar boys,’ he said. He said he could not explain it and did not think any psychiatrist could explain it either.
He had received counselling in the US and said he regretted what had happened and was sorry.
The court heard that the victim chose not to attend court and declined to make a victim impact statement. He made the complaint in 2003 after his mother became concerned after reading newspaper articles about the priest.
Judge Katherine Delahunt congratulated gardaí involved in the case and said they went almost beyond the call of duty to investigate the case.
She said it took a long time to come before the court because it was delayed by ‘persons who were shielding you’.
She said it was a gross abuse of trust and jailed him for one year. The maximum sentence for the offences involved was two years, she said.
In a statement read to court the 82-year-old said he was ‘most profoundly sorry’ for his inappropriate behaviour and the dress caused to his victim and his family. He said he wants to humbly ask for forgiveness.
Now in his 83rd year, he said he had not offended in 25 years and had, through the benevolence of his superiors, been rehabilitated through a programme in Maryland in the US.
He said he was grateful to his superiors for this and to his family and a few friends.
He said he had ‘wandered into the desert’, which was a lonely place.