A former priest has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy while he was parish priest in a West Donegal community.
Eamonn Crossan appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to a single charge of indecently assaulting the boy in the 1980s.
The court was told that the assault took place at the Parochial House in Kincasslagh.
Crossan, who was aged 33 at the time, had adopted a father-figure role to the boy after his father had recently passed away.
The victim, Kevin O’Brien, waived his right to anonymity so that Crossan, now aged 69 could be named publicly.
The court was told that the victim had visited Letterkenny with the priest and another boy and had returned home to their parish on a date between December 13th, 1984 and December 13th, 1985 before the priest dropped the other boy home.
At the time boys would stay over at the parochial house and their parents knew and trusted the priest.
The victim revealed how the accused gave Smithwicks and also whiskey when they returned to the sitting room of the parochial house.
He then said he remembers waking up naked in the bed with the priest next to him naked and he remembered that he was sexually assaulted.
The priest has since been laicized after a complaint was made to Church authorities about his behaviour.
The victim made a statement of complaint to Gardai on April 18th, 2017 and a full investigation was launched.
The lengthy and heartwrenching victim impact statement was read out in court by his adult daughter.
In it, he told how his faith was so important to him as a child and for a person who was supposed to be beyond reproach to groom him for the purpose of abusing him made him lose trust in the church.
He said he has not been able to fulfil his role as a father, friend or husband and that this all stemmed from the “sick actions” of this priest.
He added that he felt trapped and suffered from depression and has always felt trapped “like a frightened child.”
He said he can still hear the priest breathing on him and the stubble on his face which he said haunts him when he hears his wife breathing beside him at night.
The man said he tried to report the matter when he was younger but nobody listened to him and that he has since tried to take his own life.
He suffered what he thought was two strokes but they were seizures brought on by the stress of reliving what had happened to him.
He now goes to weekly counselling sessions which he has to pay for privately adding that he now remembers everything that happened to him each night.
Barrister for the accused, Mr Shane Costello SC, said the accused now lives outside of Donegal and almost lives a “hermit-like’ existence.
He said he is deeply sorry for what he did and that he understands the trauma and the stress he caused and accepts full responsibility for it.
He also penned a letter to his victim in which he states that the situation was all his fault and it had nothing to do with his victim.
He also promised his victim that he has learned from what he has done and that his abusive behaviour will never happen again.
Barrister Shane Costello said that the accused man’s vocation was the most important thing in his life and because of what he did, that was taken from him before saying this was not anybody else’s but his own.
He added that the various reports on the priest placed him between a low risk of reoffending and a modest risk of reoffending but added that he has not reoffended in 33 years since.
“He is not a man likely to commit any further crime. I think you can take the view he is of low risk,” added Mr Costello.
Judge John Aylmer said the incident was a gross breach of trust saying the offence has had devastating consequences for the victim.
He said he placed the offence in the mid-range of such offences and one which merited five years in prison before mitigation.
The mitigating factors included an admission by the accused as far back as 1998 when the case was first investigated by Church authorities.
He also entered a guilty plea when prosecuted in 2017 after an official complaint was made by the victim to Gardai.
Judge Aylmer noted that there was also the potential of a more “obstructive approach” by the accused with the possibility of judicial review proceedings with the delay in the case and also the structural changes which have occurred in the parochial house.
He noted that the man’s career as a priest had been terminated and that he now leads a modest and life, that he had not reoffended and that he is genuinely remorseful.
He added the court accepts the accused has demonstrated he is a low risk of reoffending and that he attended the Granda Institute for clerical sex offenders between 1998 and 2004.
He said that apart from this offence he has led a blame-free life and for all of those factors and others mentioned he was reducing the sentence to one of three years.
Because the accused came before him with no previous convictions and that he has not offended since, the court could consider suspending part of all of the sentence.
However, Judge Aylmer said the offence was too serious and that the accused must serve a custodial sentence but suspended the final 12 months meaning the accused will serve two years.
He was also placed on the sex offenders register for ten years.
If you have been affeted by the above report please contact:
Tusla (Child & Family Agency) – tel: 074 91 23672/23770,
Gardaí National Protective Services Bureau – tel: 01 6663430/6663435.