Saturday 21 September 2019

Former priest (83) jailed for forcing girl to have 'simulated sex' with him

‘Force and violence’: Former priest Con Cunningham was told his offences – perpetrated in the mid-1970s – were at the “higher end” of sexual abuse. Photo: North West Newspix
‘Force and violence’: Former priest Con Cunningham was told his offences – perpetrated in the mid-1970s – were at the “higher end” of sexual abuse. Photo: North West Newspix

Gerry McLaughlin

A former priest who was held in the "highest esteem" has been jailed for nine months after having "simulated sex" with a young girl as he drove to Dublin in his car.

Judge John Aylmer told Con Cunningham (83) he did not accept the offences were at the "lower end of the scale".

Donegal Town Circuit Court heard although no penetration had taken place, the ex-priest had pushed the child's face into his crotch until he had satisfied himself.

The child suffered bruising to her genital area from "similar simulated sex".

Cunningham, of Glen Road, Carrick, had climbed on top of the girl and a "significant level of both force and violence" was used, the judge said.

And the effect on the victim was ongoing after 43 years and the offences were on the higher end of the scale.

Mitigating factors were his plea, albeit late, his age and the fact prison would be "onerous" on him, although he was a "fit" person.

The ex-priest was now on the Sex Offenders Register and had a significant "fall from grace", the court was told.

Cunningham had pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault against the girl on dates between January 1, 1976, and December 31, 1976, at a location in Donegal.

The defendant also pleaded guilty to a similar third count that occurred at an unknown location between Donegal and Dublin on dates between January 1, 1976, and June 30, 1977.

The State entered a nolle prosequi on two other counts.

Judge Aylmer initially imposed a sentence of 15 months but suspended the final six months. Cunningham was also bound over to be of good behaviour and keep the peace on his own bond of €100 for a year.

The then Fr Cunningham had begun the abuse by sitting the girl on his knee and tickling her.

The court heard the defendant was friendly with her family and involved in sports.

He made sure she was the last to be dropped off when coming back from sports events, the court heard.

Irish Independent

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