Northern Ireland

Priest Fr James Donaghy admits more sex abuse charges

Belfast's Laganside court complex
Image caption The victim's mother wept quietly in the public gallery at the guilty plea before fleeing the court in tears

A priest who is already serving a ten-year jail sentence for sex crimes against three teenagers has admitted sexually abusing a fourth young victim.

James Martin Donaghy had been due to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court but instead, a defence lawyer asked for the charges to be put to his client again.

Donaghy then pleaded guilty to four charges of indecently assaulting a boy and a further charge of common assault against the same child 24 years ago.

He is due to be sentenced next month.


The offences were carried out on dates between January and May 1989.

As the priest entered his guilty pleas, his victim's mother wept quietly in the public gallery before fleeing the court in tears.

No other facts of the case were given in court and the judge remanded Donaghy back into custody at Magilligan Prison until 2 July, when pre-sentence probation reports are due to be completed.

Donaghy was told he would be placed on the police sex offenders register and barred from working with children and vulnerable adults.

However, due to his guilty pleas it can now be revealed that, given his previous litany of offences, the priest is already on both lists for life.

In February last year, Donaghy, who is originally from Lady Wallace Drive, Lisburn, was jailed for ten years after he was convicted of a total of 23 sex offences against three victims.

The offences were committed over a 17-year period and the victims were all teenagers when the abuse first began.

'Sexual predator'

Two of them were choir boys in churches where Donaghy was a parish priest.

His third victim, Father Patrick McCafferty, spoke publicly about the abuse he had suffered at the hands of the older priest while he was training for the priesthood.

Father McCafferty's ordeal began in the early 1980s and continued until 1987.

In jailing Donaghy after the trial last February, the judge described him as a "ruthless individual" and "sexual predator" who used his "domineering personality" to abuse the teenagers.

Bishop Noel Treanor, of the Down and Connor diocese, said: "I am deeply saddened by this further revelation of abuse against a minor.

"This behaviour was criminal, sinful and wrong. I pray that this victim who has suffered in this way will now begin to find some inner strength and peace.

"As criminal proceedings are still ongoing it would not be appropriate to make any other comments."

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