News

Ex priest guilty of 19 sex offences

A former priest from Lisburn has been convicted of a litany of sex offences against two altar boys and a trainee priest.
UTV reports: The Belfast Crown Court jury of nine men and three women deliberated for almost five hours over two days, before finding 53-year-old James Martin Donaghy guilty over four charges of indecent assault and one attempted sex attack.

After another two-and-a-quarter hours of deliberations, the jury returned to court to convict Donaghy of another attempted sex attack and 14 more indecent assaults.

Donaghy, from Lady Wallace Drive in Lisburn, stood impassive as the verdicts were delivered – but relatives in the public gallery wept silently and shook their heads in denial.

Three of the indecent assault charges related to victim Father Patrick McCafferty, who had told the court he was sexually assaulted the night before Donaghy was ordained as a priest and in the parochial house at Corpus Christi.

Fr McCafferty said the abuse had first begun while he was at seminary in Wexford, but that Donaghy – whom he described as “dominating and controlling” – continued the abuse numerous times, including in his own family home in Lisburn the night before they went to Donegal on retreat.

One of the attempted sex attacks and three of the indecent assault charges related to evidence given by former altar boy James Doherty (also known as Seamus).

He testified that Donaghy had tried to have sex with him in the parochial house at St Michael’s in Finaghy – as Father Charlie Agnew lay dead in the house – and again five or six weeks after Fr Agnew’s death, and then at Corpus Christi where Donaghy had been moved to.

All the remaining charges related to Donaghy’s third victim – a former altar boy and then trainee priest who was abused from the age of about 14 until he was 20-years-old.

Now 29, he told the court Donaghy had said “he loved me and that he had loved me from the first time that he had set eyes on me”.

The victim described how Donaghy would attach post-it notes to a folder containing his sermon, but that on many occasions a note would simply say “ice-cream” – that was “his indication to let me know he wanted to engage in some sexual activity” – and that Donaghy would also sneak into his bedroom to abuse him when he stayed at the parochial house.

The jury are still deliberating on a further four charges of indecent assault, two attempted sex attacks and one common assault, in relation to alleged misconduct by Donaghy towards the three victims between June 1983 and December 2000.

The jury was told earlier on Wednesday that majority verdicts could be accepted and the verdicts over all the charges, save three of the indecent assaults, were unanimous.

The other three guilty verdicts were accepted after a majority of 10 to two.

Trial Judge Patrick Lynch QC remanded Donaghy into custody and he will appear in court on Thursday, as the jury continues deliberations on the remaining charges.

The trial continues.