Northern Ireland news

Retired priest Fr John Murray appears in court charged with indecent assaults

Fr John Murray leaves court in Belfast where he faced two charges of indecent assault. Picture by Hugh Russell

A retired priest allegedly committed indecent assaults against two females in Belfast up to 40 years ago, a court has heard.

Fr John Murray faces charges as part of a police investigation into claims of historical clerical sexual abuse in the city.

The 77-year-old, with an address at Marguerite Avenue in Newcastle, Co Down, was arrested on Saturday - just days after travelling back from Spain.

A carer guided him into Belfast Magistrates' Court in a wheelchair for his first appearance.

Two charges of indecent assault were put to him as he listened through a hearing aid.

The alleged offences were committed on dates unknown between 1976 and 1982.

An investigating detective said she could connect him to the charges.

The retired cleric, who served at St Matthew's in east Belfast as well as other parishes in Belfast and Coleraine before becoming parish priest in Rasharkin in 2009, entered no plea during the brief hearing.

But his solicitor, Denis Moloney, hit out at how police handled the case.

He told the court it had been "draconian" to have Fr Murray brought in and arrested at the weekend.

Acknowledging the sensitivities involved, Mr Moloney added: "The defendant is here and ready to be interviewed by the authorities when they see fit."

Proceedings were adjourned for four weeks, when the defendant excused from attending the next hearing.

He was released on continuing bail, with conditions that he must remain in the jurisdiction, surrender his passport and stay at an address known to police.

Fr John Murray served as a priest in St Matthew's in east Belfast as well as other parish in Belfast and Coleraine before becoming parish priest of Rasharkin in 2009

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