A paedophile priest told a distraught seven-year-old boy that he could get his dead grandfather into heaven if he performed a sex act on him, a court has heard, UK, Northern Ireland.
Belfast Crown Court heard that the boy was quite distressed about his grandfather being in purgatory but that 55-year-old James Martin Donaghy told the child “he could get him into haven if he helped him” and performed a sex act.
Last month just before his trial was due to begin Donaghy, originally from Lady Wallace Drive in Lisburn but now languishing in Magilligan prison, pleaded guilty to four charges of indecently assaulting the boy and one of common assault against the schoolboy on dates between January and May 1989.
Following a lengthy trial at the end of 2011, Donaghy was convicted of a total of 17 sex offences including indecent assault and committing acts of gross indecency against all three victims.
Those charges all happened on various dates between 1983 and 2000. In relation to the latest series of offences, prosecuting QC Ken McMahon said the boy was being trained by Donaghy for his upcoming first confession and communion when the abuse began.
After one offence the court heard that “the defendant said that this was to get his grandfather into heaven and that if he told anyone it would not work,” said the lawyer.
Mr McMahon said that a few days later, the boy went to confession as he did not feel right about what had happened but that when he went into the confessional box, he discovered Donaghy on the other side of the partition.
The abuse came to light in 2010 when Donaghy’s victim, his fourth, first told his wife and then the church who in turn contacted the police. Arrested and interviewed Donaghy denied the allegations, claiming he did not even remember the boy.
Mr McMahon said it was correct that this latest case could have been dealt with at the same time as Donaghy’s previous offences but that the legal process just took a little longer.
He added however that given the fact Donaghy knew he was under suspicion for them, he could have confessed his crimes earlier but that his guilty pleas had come as a huge relief to this now 31-year-old victim.
Defence QC Eugene Grant told the court that despite the latest series of sex offences, there were testimonials before the court which evidenced how Donaghy had, as priest, given much appreciated pastoral care to many parishioners and families.
He submitted that his guilty pleas, unlike the previous case when he fought it to the end, had been a “seismic event” in Donaghy’s attitude, describing it as a “road to Damascus” moment which would have a positive impact his future rehabilitation.
Adjourning passing sentence until Friday, His Honour Judge Kinney remanded Donaghy back into custody, telling the court he wanted to reflect on the papers and evidence before him.