Northern Ireland news

PPS decides not to prosecute in eight cases relating to Fr Malachy Finegan investigation

Fr Malachy Finegan was a former president of St Colman's College in Newry and parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown in Co Down
Connla Young

THE Public Prosecution Service has decided not to prosecute in eight cases following a police investigation linked to the activities of Fr Malachy Finegan.

Finegan has been accused of sexual abuse across Co Down, including at St Colman's College in Newry where he taught from 1967 and was president from 1976 to 1987.

Police said detectives "carried out a thorough and robust investigation into the circumstances of abuse committed by deceased priest Father Malachy Finegan and other persons connected to St Colman’s College, Newry and subsequently submitted nine files to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for consideration".

It is understood a decision not to prosecute has now been taken in relation to eight of the files, with the remaining case still being considered.

Files normally relate to separate individuals.

Finegan has been accused of sexual and physical abuse against boys on church and school premises.

The Dromore diocese said the first allegation against the priest came to light in 1994, seven years after he left St Colman's College.

Former Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey has previously confirmed that between 1994 and 2016 there were a total of 12 allegations of abuse made against him (Finegan).

The former priest was never prosecuted, but allegations were investigated in 2011 by the Church's clerical abuse watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children.

Finegan, who died in 2002, was also a parish priest of Clonduff in Hilltown in Co Down, where it is alleged he carried out further serious sexual abuse.

Bishop McAreavey apologised last year after it emerged that the had officiated at the funeral of Finegan even though he was aware of the allegations made against him.

He later stood down and has since backed calls for an independent public inquiry into the abuse claims.

Solicitor Kevin Winters, of KRW Law, represents a number of Finegan's alleged victims and knew the priest when he attended St Colman's College.

He described the decision not to prosecute in eight of the files as "disappointing but not unsurprising" and said he has written to the PPS “querying exactly why these cases did not meet the 'public interest' test for prosecution”.

The solicitor added that in recent months he has raised “issues of extreme sensitivity with the Crown Solicitors Office” and has been advised to expect a response soon.

He said that “will dictate the legal response required to this setback”.

A spokesman for the PPS said: “Following careful consideration of all of the available evidence, it has been determined that the Test for Prosecution is not met in relation to a number of investigation files reported to us by police.

“Decisions have not yet been reached in all of the files and as we are currently involved in communicating the prosecution decisions to the relevant parties, we will not be making further comment at this stage.”

A spokesman for the PSNI said: “Public Protection Branch detectives carried out a thorough and robust investigation into the circumstances of abuse committed by deceased priest Father Malachy Finegan and other persons connected to St Colman’s College Newry and subsequently submitted nine files to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) for consideration.

“The decision on whether or not to pursue prosecution in any criminal case rests with the PPS.”

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