October 2015

Man abused for more than 10 years by Catholic priest hits out at church for ‘failing him’ as a child

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Eamonn Flanagan, now 52 and living in Australia, was abused from the age of 11 by Father Samuel Penney (pictured) while he was an altar server at Saint Mary and St Modwen Church, in Guild Street, Burton, during the 1970s.

Now 22 years after Penney was jailed for a string of sexual offences against children, Mr Flanagan has been given a payout by the Diocese of Birmingham. Speaking from his home, Mr Flanagan, who waived his right to anonymity, said he felt the church had failed to ‘take responsibility’.

Representatives from the church said this week it now worked ‘very hard’ to deal with abuse allegations.

Mr Flanagan said: “Despite the jailing of Penney, the Catholic church has failed to support victims and survivors of abuse in my view. They certainly took no action to stop him. I should have gone to the police immediately. The church failed me, my family, my friends and all the people of the Burton parish. They failed me during the abuse and for many, many years after the abuse had ended.”

Penney left Burton in 1978, and it was not until 1990 that Mr Flanagan revealed the abuse he suffered at the hands of the priest. However, Penney was not arrested for a further two years when he was charged with abusing five siblings in Leamington.

He was jailed for seven and a half years in 1993 for seven indecent assaults on children including Mr Flanagan.

And it has taken Mr Flanagan 22 years to win a pay-out from the diocese – of just over £3,900. He added: “I’ve had to fight for recognition of my abuse. Even after all these years and proven allegations with Penney sent to jail, the church in their legal statements refused to acknowledge my abuse.

“It was never about money for me.”

His message to victims of sexual abuse is clear – ‘tell somebody’.

He added: “The main thing is to tell your story, tell it early and to someone who you trust and is likely to believe it.

“If I had been able to do this, I could have stopped my abuse.”

Penney was released from jail in 1997 after serving just four years.

A spokesman from the Archdiocese of Birmingham said: “Since 2001 the Catholic church has worked very hard to ensure that all issues of abuse are responded to sensitively, quickly and appropriately. Allegations are now always reported to the police.”

It confirmed a payout had been settled in this case.