Northern Ireland

Former priest Peter Donnelly denies child sex abuse

Belfast court complex
Image caption Peter Donnelly, 71, denied all seven charges at Belfast Crown Court

A former Belfast priest has denied sexually abusing a girl while she was member of his parish in the 1980s.

Peter Donnelly, from Drumaroad Hill in Castlewellan, County Down, is a former priest at St Matthew's Catholic church in east Belfast.

The 71-year-old is accused of sexually assaulting the girl in the parochial house of the church over a period spanning from July 1982 to August 1987.

At Belfast Crown Court, the pensioner denies all seven charges against him.

He has been charged with six counts of indecently assaulting the girl, and a further charge of gross indecency with a child.

Opening the case against Mr Donnelly, a prosecution lawyer said the alleged abuse was carried out when the girl was aged about 10, and continued up until her early teens.

The jury heard that the abuse started in the early 80s, when the priest used to hug the girl and put his arms around her, but this "progressed when he started to kiss and touch her physically".

The prosecutor told the court the woman recalled several incidents of abuse, including an incident that took place in the bedroom of the parochial house and other incidents in the dining room and hallway of the east Belfast property.

The court heard a complaint was made to the police in September 2010.

Mr Donnelly was arrested after the alleged victim attended a specialist PSNI unit established for people who claim to have been sexually abused.

The former priest told police he did not recognise her and "totally denied" sexually abusing her.

The case continues.

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