Saturday 20 January 2018

Ex-student priest guilty of sex assault

Ann Healy

A former student priest was found guilty yesterday of the sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy 35 years ago.

Gerard Cleere, a native of Kilkenny who had to be extradited from England last December, had denied an allegation of buggery on a single unknown date between January 1, 1973 and December 30, 1974.

Cleere did however plead guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to indecently assaulting the child.

Judge Raymond Groarke adjourned sentencing in the case until July 13 and remanded Cleere in custody until that date.

The judge directed the preparation of a victim impact statement to be made available to the court prior to sentencing.

The two-day trial heard evidence that Cleere had been a first-year probationary priest at the Redemptorist monastery at Cluain Mhuire in Mervue in Galway city between 1972.

The victim told the jury that he and his friends used to play handball in the four handball alleys which were owned by the Redemptorists at Cluain Mhuire, near his home at the time.

Cleere befriended the then 10-year-old victim at the courts and began calling regularly to the child's home.

Cleere left the seminary after a year and went to England where he later did a post-graduate degree course in teacher training in Cardiff.

The victim, who is now 46, broke down in the witness box when he recalled how he had sustained a leg and groin injury while playing football and he was sitting near the fire in the kitchen in his house when the accused, who was 18 or 19 years old at the time, came in.

The victim said Cleere examined his injury before sexually assaulting him.

The man told the jury what had happened to him that day had haunted him for many years. He said it had taken until 2007 for him to feel strong enough to go to gardai and make a formal complaint.

Inspector Michael Coppinger told the court he travelled to England in 2007 to interview Cleere. He said that while the accused had denied the allegation of buggery, he had said he was sorry for what he did to the boy and admitted indecently assaulting him.

Irish Independent

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