Retired Catholic Priest charged over child sex crimes - here's a round-up from Aylesbury Crown Court

Francis McDermott
Francis McDermott

Francis McDermott, a 75-year-old retired Catholic Priest, has appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court accused of sexually assaulting six children between 1971 and 1979.

Francis McDermott, a 75-year-old retired Catholic Priest, has appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court accused of sexually assaulting six children between 1971 and 1979.

Aylesbury Crown Court

Aylesbury Crown Court

Father McDermott was for a time practising as a priest at the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bedgrove - although the alleged offences are said to have taken place in London, High Wycombe and Norwich.

The trial began on February 4, and is due to conclude this week - Father McDermott denies all the charges.

Complainant One, now in his 50's, who alleges he was sexually abused hundreds of times between the ages of 10 to 17 by the defendant, including up to seven incidences of penetration, said he was introduced to the priest when his parents befriended him in London.

He described Father McDermott as having a very high sex drive, saying: “He was sex mad. He was always talking about it.”

The accuser said he slept 'top to toe' with the defendant when he stopped over after drinking parties, and this is where the alleged abuse began.

Fast-forwarding to 2004, and Complainant One was contacted by the priest after the latter had been accused of sexually assaulting a young girl who was known to him.

She believed that Complainant One had knowledge of her assaults, which also took place in the 1970's.

Before meeting Mr McDermott, Complainant One purchased a tape recorder and recorded their conversation.

He told the court: “I just wanted to record what he said as I sensed panic. I guessed it was about the sexual abuse.”

On the tape Complainant One can be heard saying he didn't see the alleged offences against the then 12-year-old girl, but did refer to fondling that took place between himself and the priest.

The priest also says on the tape that he believes the girl was an attention-seeker who had a crush on him.

“I can't understand, 30 years down the lane, why she's saying it,” he says on the 2004 recording.

Complainant One then sat on this tape for over a decade, “I decided not to pursue it,” he said, and it was only after seeking therapy following the break-up of his second marriage that he decided to report his own abuse.

Patrick Hill QC for the defence made great play of the witness's mental health, telling the jury that he had been held for some time in a mental institution, which the witnessed denied, describing himself as an 'outpatient'.

In a heated exchange, the defence then sought to imply that the abuse was getting worse in Complainant One's mind due to the influence of his therapy.

The defence said that what began as “touching and masturbation” soon became thousands of sexual assaults after the therapy sessions.

But Complainant One responded forcefully: “The abuse wasn't getting worse, I was admitting more.”

Mr Hill then moved on to querying why a second meeting between the defendant and the complainant had not been recorded back in 2004, suggesting that the reason was because he was asking the priest about compensation.

The witness responded: “This is all fabricated.”

Complainant Two is accusing the priest of raping her in the mid-1970s, and described him as “a master of winning people over” at the trial.

In court Complainant Two alleged that McDermott had sexually assaulted her two weeks before her 16th birthday.

Patrick Hill QC for the defence questioned why her parents were not suspicious of Father McDermott paying such close attention to her.

“Because of the Catholic Faith,” the witness answered, adding, “That's what the Catholic Religion meant to my mother – she wouldn't question it.”

The court heard that the victim kept a diary as a teenager where she recorded significant events in her life.

The complainant also alleged that McDermott was “moved on” after her mother made a complaint to the local church.

Complainants Three and Four are accusing Father McDermott of sexually assaulting them when they were children in the 1970s, and have told how he “homed in” on them.

In evidence given at Aylesbury Crown Court yesterday, a man (Complainant Three) who says he was abused when he was aged between 11 and 13, described how the priest began abusing him and “introduced him to sex”.

Complainant Three told the court how he had been groomed by McDermott.

When it was suggested by Patrick Hill QC, defence, that the complainant was just after compensation, the man responded: “I'm surprised at your question – that has never entered my head.”

Later in the hearing, Complainant Four, a woman, now in her 50s, said that she was abused by the priest between the ages of 13 and 15.

Speaking of her ordeal, she said she was in her school uniform when he sexually assaulted her, adding, “I didn't understand what was happening.”

She also claimed that when Father McDermott discovered she was going on a date with a boy, the Priest burst into the family home and shouted a derogatory term at her in front of her parents.

Another witness told the court that she discovered McDermott in bed with two children and was told “go downstairs, you shouldn't be in here”.

Father McDermott, now of Bideford in Devon but who moved between London, Aylesbury and High Wycombe in the 1970's, is charged with 18 counts of indecent assault, four counts of indecent assault on a male person, two counts of indecency with a child, one count of buggery and one count of rape.

The former priest denies the charges and the case continues.