Northern Ireland

Sex abuse charges against priest discontinued

Sean McCaughley (60) was due to go on trial at Newry Crown Court
Sean McCaughley (60) was due to go on trial at Newry Crown Court

HISTORICAL sex abuse charges against a priest extradited from the US back to the north to face the accusations have been discontinued.

Sean McCaughley (60) was due to go on trial at Newry Crown Court but prosecuting QC Frank O’Donoghue said that in line with his “continuing duty” to keep cases under review, the evidence has been reviewed and coupled with a document provided by the defence legal team, “a decision has been made that the test [for prosecution] can no longer be met.”

"In that position the Crown say that he cannot receive a fair trial,” said the senior lawyer who applied for the charges “to he left on the books, not to be proceeded with without the leave of this court or the court of appeal.”

McCaughley, who has an address at Delavan Avenue, Newark, New Jersey, had previously entered not guilty pleas to charges including gross indecency with or towards a child and indecent assault, all alleged to have been committed on dates between February 22 1988 and November 1 1991.

While the facts of the case have yet to be opened, previous courts have heard that the complainant has since died and that McCaughley was a priest at the time of the alleged offences.

In court on Wednesday, Mr O’Donoghue explained that as the complainant died just over a year ago, the trial could only proceed if the alleged victim’s evidence “is demonstrably reliable or can be properly tested” because to do otherwise would be unfair to McCaughley.

Defence QC Bara McGrory told Judge Gordon Kerr QC he was in agreement with the prosecution application and accordingly, the judge ordered the charges to he “left on the books".