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Man subjected to 'unfathomably cruel' sexual abuse by a priest to be awarded £170,000

A man subjected to "unfathomably cruel" sexual abuse by a priest hearing his childhood confessions is to be awarded £170,000 in damages

A MAN subjected to "unfathomably cruel" sexual abuse by a priest hearing his childhood confessions is to be awarded £170,000 in damages, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice McAlinden held that the victim was preyed on by the late Fr Seamus Reid at a Co Down school in the mid 1970s.

The total payout also covers separate claims that Hugh McNamara, a former principal of St Mark's High School in Warrenpoint, caned the victim so hard that he wet himself, and then made him clean up the pool of blood and urine.

The Diocese of Dromore was held liable for the alleged episodes of sexual and physical abuse which resulted in the victim developing post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I find it difficult to imagine a more horrific perversion of the true purpose and meaning of a Christian sacrament by an ordained member of the clergy of a Christian church," the judge said.

The plaintiff, now in his late fifties, sued the Diocese over what he said happened to him as a 12 and 13-year-old pupil at St Mark's.

He said he accepted invitations from Fr Reid - who died in 2001 - to hear his confession in a school store room and sickbay.

Each time, the priest told the boy to kneel facing away from him and started rubbing his chest, the court heard.

The alleged molestation only came to light when the victim was taken to a nearby caravan because the store room was locked.

The plaintiff recalled Fr Reid smelling strongly of stale cigarette smoke, and feeling "horrified and very frightened" at having his private parts grabbed.

He then twisted round to discover what was going on behind his back.

The clergyman reacted angrily, shouted at the boy to get out and pushed him back into school.

Mr Justice McAlinden held the pupil rightly concluded that the priest had behaved in an "equally abominable fashion" previously in the sickbay and storeroom.

"It is clear that Fr Reid took advantage of the plaintiff's vulnerability and abused his need for support during a difficult period of his young life," he said.

"That abuse was unfathomably cruel."

The victim told no-one what had happened until he informed a counsellor in 2014.

Another part of the civil action centred on separate allegations that he was physically abused by Hugh McNamara, principal of St Mark's at the time, over smoking in the school toilets.

The man said he was caned with such force in the headmaster's office that one of his hands started bleeding and he lost control of his bladder.

After the caning, the teacher told the victim to wipe his blood and urine to wipe off the floor, it was claimed.

He said Mr McNamara told him: "A boy like you is not going to bring this school into the gutter."

The judge said he was convinced that Mr McNamara, now aged in his nineties, behaved as alleged and made the remarks for some unknown reason.

"It was a cruel and excessive physical punishment of a child, calculated to inflict extreme pain and with the intention of striking terror into the child," he held.

"It was conducted in such a manner and in such circumstances as to grossly humiliate the child."

Mr Justice McAlinden confirmed: "In summary, I find that the plaintiff's allegations both in respect of Fr Seamus Reid and in respect of Mr Hugh McNamara are convincingly proven."

"The defendant is vicariously liable for the torturous actions of these two individuals."

The judge set out how the plaintiff suffered nightmares, bouts of depression, and feelings of shame and disgust.

A serious drink problem resulted in the breakdown of his marriage and estrangement from his own children.

"What he experienced and saw in that caravan shattered his faith and destroyed any trust he had in the clergy," Mr Justice McAlinden added.

He ruled: "I have no hesitation in concluding that a global figure of £170,000 in respect of general damages is appropriate in this case."

A spokesman for the Diocese of Dromore said it "apologises unreservedly for the hurt and damage caused to this victim and all victims and survivors of any priest acting under its authority - such behaviour is abhorrent, inexcusable and indefensible. The Diocese would urge anyone who may have a concern of a safeguarding nature to contact the PSNI, Social Services, or the Diocesan Designated Safeguarding Office (Tel. 077 8991 7741)."

A spokeswoman for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools said: "Due to the nature of the case being a civil and historical matter St Mark's will not be making a comment".

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