Wednesday 21 March 2018

Priest denies abuse of children at swimming pools

A PRIEST has told a court he never sexually abused or inappropriately touched young boys while he was working at Roman Catholic establishments.

Alexander Bede Walsh is accused of abusing eight youngsters in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Coventry between 1975 and 1994.

Jurors at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard that Walsh, denies a total of 27 offences of indecency, buggery and indecent assault.

Giving evidence to the court today, the 58-year-old said he enjoyed being around children but not because of any sexual motives.

"I enjoyed the company of older children rather than younger children," he said, "I felt I was best at communicating with teenagers - 14, 15, 16, 17-year-olds - because of their honesty and they challenge you."

He shook his head and answered "no" when asked by his barrister Mark Watson: "Did you enjoy their company because you could sexually abuse them?"

Walsh told the jury of five men and seven women that part of his priestly duties was to visit families, take children swimming and in the past he had taken groups to Alton Towers.

He repeatedly answered "never", when asked by Mr Watson if he had ever sexually or inappropriately touched or been touched by the children, or had got into bed with them or been alone with them.

Opening the Crown's case yesterday, prosecutor Robert Price alleged that one of the victims was abused after being plied with alcohol during what purported to be a private communion ceremony.

Mr Price told the court that Walsh, who was widely respected within the Roman Catholic Church, was arrested and interviewed in 2006 after two men contacted the police to claim they had been abused in Coventry when they were children.

Further complainants came forward between 2008 and 2011, said Mr Price.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place at various locations, including a swimming pool in Coventry and a children's home.

Walsh, who was ordained in 1979 and has a previous conviction for downloading indecent images of children from the internet, is also alleged to have committed sexual offences at other locations while based at churches in England.

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