Northern Ireland

Bishop apologises over paedophile priest

Former priest Daniel Curran
Image caption Former priest Daniel Curran abused the boys at his family's holiday home

The Bishop of Down and Connor has apologised to the victims of a paedophile priest who has been jailed for four years for sexually abusing two young boys.

Bishop Noel Treanor said that he regretted "the pain and distress" caused by Daniel Curran, 61, of Bryansford Road, Newcastle.

Downpatrick Crown Court heard the offences took place between 1989 and 1994 at Curran's family holiday home near Tyrella, County Down.

It was the fourth time he had been charged with child abuse.

He had been serving at the time as a priest in west Belfast and had gained the trust of parents when he took their children away overnight. The boys were aged nine and 10.

The prosecution said the boys saw it as an opportunity to get away from the Troubles in Belfast.

Bishop Treanor said: "The entire Catholic community suffers whenever trust is betrayed in this manner by any person ministering in her name.

"It is my hope that the sentence handed down today will assist those affected on their journey towards healing.

"I would reiterate the diocese's unequivocal apologies to all those who have suffered abuse by clergy and religious and give the reassurance that the safeguarding of children and young people is paramount."

In his judgement, Judge David Smyth QC said that a mitigating factor was that Curran had pleaded guilty at the first available, and reasonable, opportunity.

This allowed the victims to be told that there was not going to be a public trial.

The judge also said that Curran has accepted that he was responsible for the acts against the boys.

The former priest also accepted that there may be others whom he cannot remember because the offences were committed when he had a significant alcohol problem.

The court also heard that Curran had been assaulted four times when he was in prison.

The judge said that he would take this into account but only to a limited extent.

The judge said he had to take into account what the overall sentence would have been if imposed at the time the offences were committed and the fact that this is Curran's third return to prison.

"Nonetheless there were at least 13 victims," he said.

"The time span was just short of 17 years. The abuse of trust was of great magnitude.

"The impact on victims, their parents and upon public trust and confidence was considerable.

"While Mr Curran's approach to these allegations did not result in the delay in the victims coming forward I am satisfied that his approach to these matters in 1995 and in 2005 and 2006 lacked the kind of penitence that could allow the court now to accept true remorse."

Judge Smyth sentenced Curran to three years imprisonment in respect of the four offences against the first boy to run concurrently.

He imposed a consecutive sentence of one year in relation to the offence against the second boy.

The former priest has three previous convictions for similar offences of abusing young boys.

The judge told the court that Curran had been committing offences over a period of 16 to 17 years.

He had abused a total of 13 boys who were aged between eight and 12.

Curran was given access to the boys in each case by trusting parents.

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