Pervert priest jailed at last after allegations ignored for decades

A CAMPAIGN of child abuse by a perverted priest was ignored by church authorities for decades, even though several of his victims spoke out.

Retired priest Father John Corrigan was jailed for four years today for the abuse of three altar boys and a girl in the sacristy and vestry of his Gateshead church dating back 40 years.

The 72-year-old, who also worked in parishes in Seaham and Newcastle, admitted nine charges of indecent assault between 1967 and 1972 and must now register as a sex offender for life.

Judge David Hodson told Corrigan: "By virtue of your priesthood you were in an especially privileged position, you were regarded by your parishioners as a person with whom the safety and innocence of the children in your charge would be safe.

"Over a period of about five years, you breached that trust in the grossest way."

Newcastle Crown Court heard how his teenage female victim reported the abuse at the time, but the authorities refused to listen.

Prosecutor Penny Moreland told the court: "It was she who got the dressing down from the parish priest, it was she who was told she was a bad girl who had shamed her family by saying wicked things about the defendant."

The woman, now in her 50s, was in court yesterday to see Corrigan, who sat with his head in his hand throughout the hearing, finally brought to justice.

The court was told that one of the male victims, who was abused when he was around eight-years-old, went to the authorities in the 1980s but he too was ignored.

An investigation was finally launched in 2002, after the third victim finally reported Corrigan's crimes, and he was extradited from his native Ireland, where he had retired.

Defence barrister Tony Hawks said it took great "moral courage" for Corrigan to admit his guilt and has committed no offences before or since.

Judge Hodson told Corrigan: "You believed your position was unassailable.

"You thought no-one would complain and even if they did their word would not be believed as against yours."

Speaking after the hearing Father Dennis Tindall, Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinator of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, said he has worked closely with some of the victims.

He added: "We do not have a good history on this subject.

"We need to acknowledge things weren't always done correctly on the past."

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