England

Ex Catholic priest denies West Midlands sexual abuse

A former Catholic priest has denied sexually abusing young boys over a 20-year period.

Alexander Bede Walsh, 58, is accused of abusing eight youngsters in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Coventry from 1975 to 1994.

Mr Walsh, of Church Lane in Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire, told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court he had never inappropriately touched children.

He pleaded not guilty to a total of 27 offences.

The charges include serious sexual assaults, indecency and indecent assault while working at church-run establishments.

Mr Walsh told the court he enjoyed being around children but not because of any sexual motives.

Giving evidence he said: "I enjoyed the company of older children rather than younger children.

"I felt I was best at communicating with teenagers - 14, 15, 16, 17-year-olds - because of their honesty and they challenge you."

Downloading indecent images

Mr Walsh shook his head and answered "no" when asked by his barrister Mark Watson if he enjoyed their company because it led to him sexually abuse them.

He also said he had "never" sexually or inappropriately touched or been touched by the children, nor got into bed with them or been alone with them.

He told the jury of five men and seven women that part of his priestly duties had been to visit families and take children swimming.

Mr Walsh told the jury he resigned from the priesthood after a previous conviction for downloading indecent images of children from the internet, but was continuing to live in church accommodation.

Under cross examination by prosecutor Robert Price, Mr Walsh said he thought he was the victim in the case and that the complainants were motivated by the idea of compensation.

Mr Price described the defendant as a "determined, manipulative, predatory paedophile" who believed nobody would speak out against him because he was a priest.

He suggested that Mr Walsh befriended the families of young boys so he could groom and eventually abuse them.

Mr Walsh said: "I've not abused any children. I befriended lots of families, not just those with small children.

"I befriended families with teenage children, wedding couples. I'm a friendly sort of person."

'Widely respected'

Mr Price earlier told the court that Mr Walsh was arrested and interviewed in 2006 after two men contacted the police to say they had been abused in Coventry when they were children.

Further complainants came forward between 2008 and 2011, Mr Price said.

He added that Mr Walsh, who was ordained in 1979, had been widely respected within the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr Price alleged that one of the victims was abused after being plied with alcohol during what was intended to be a private communion ceremony.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place at various locations, including a swimming pool in Coventry and a children's home in Coleshill, Warwickshire.

He is also accused of committing sexual offences at other places while based at churches in Coventry and Cheadle, in Staffordshire.

The trial continues.

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