Monday, May 06, 2024

Former altar boy sexually abused by priest in Donegal over a five year period tells abuser hell is waiting for him

A sexual abuse victim has told a former County Donegal priest ‘I hope you return to rot where you came from’ after he was abused over a period of five years.

Eamonn Crossan (73), a former priest of the Diocese of Raphoe, appeared at Letterkenny Circuit Court via Videolink from the Midlands Prison on Wednesday before Judge John Aylmer after pleading guilty to historic sexual offences against the man.

He pleaded guilty to nine sample charges out of a total of 96 charges in relation to the victim on dates in the late 1980s and early 1990s at named locations within County Donegal. These included at the victim’s home which the priest visited for Sunday dinner and which became more frequent over time.

The court heard how the victim endured scores of incidents of sexual abuse at the hands of Crossan over a five year period when he was aged between 10 and 15.

The State entered a nolle prosequi in relation to 44 charges at Letterkenny Circuit Court while the guilty pleas related to seven counts of indecent assault and two counts of sexual assault.

The victim, who was accompanied to court by his wife, read out a powerful victim impact statement and told Crossan; “I hope you return to rot where you came from.”

The victim said he had any sense of a normal childhood stolen from him and he had to fight hard against his demons to function day to day due to the abuse he endured.

He said when he saw the name of the same priest who had abused him for years in the news, ‘with each word it was like a punch in the face.’

The victim explained he had struggled with his mental health, had trust issues and had thoughts of suicide while he also struggled to concentrate and focus on school work.

He said the trauma affects his entire family who were also lied to and groomed in order for Crossan to have his way with a child.

He continued by saying he is lucky to have met his wife who gave him a loving family and without her he may not have survived.

“After today, I will not let you steal another day of my life,” said the victim.

“I hope you return to rot where you came from.

“If there is a god, then there is most definitely a hell, and that is what is waiting on you.”

The initial incident occurred while the boy was staying over with Crossan to look after him when he had the flu.

At the time, the victim outlined he was in the bed, had pyjamas on and didn’t remember seeing Crossan masturbating, but saw that he had exposed himself.

In a statement, the victim said the abuse progressed quickly and Crossan would touch and sexually abuse him..

The victim explained that he spent most of the time in the fetal position thinking of happier times and was embarrassed and ashamed.

The victim said the abuse became normalised but he did not know for sure how many times the abuse occurred.

He said he would wear pyjamas to bed and would sometimes wake up wearing nothing.

He recalled an incident when he came out of the bathroom and he was met by Crossan who rubbed against him and referred to it as sword fighting.

He said there would be cuddling and kissing in the clerk’s room and a sacristy while he was an altar boy.

The victim recalls Crossan teaching him to shave and he would buy him things from a man’s shop.

The victim said that on one occasion, he was in bed which Crossan got into and the victim told him he did not like the things that he was doing to him.

Fiona Crawford BL for the prosecution said this began the end of the abuse.

In 2021, the victim told his wife about the abuse and he reported it to gardaí.

The court heard that Crossan made certain admissions in the interview process but disputed some of the claims.

He told Gardaí during interview that the victim ‘was good fun to be with.’

He added that some things were appropriate during those times but are not appropriate now and he agreed that a conversation had ended matters between the two of them.

Crossan said it was a friendship as he was in need of affection but denied it was sexual.

In regard to previous convictions, the court heard that Crossan was convicted in 2021 of indecent assault of a child and was sentenced to three years in prison with the final 12 months suspended.

Mr Peter Nolan BL (defending) told the court that Crossan was generally co-operative, but used different phrases which diminished the allegations.

Mr Nolan said Crossan could have been freed from prison in August 2022 but had been in custody on this matter since then as he had no where else to go as there was no provision made by family or the church.

The court heard that Crossan had minimalised his culpability for sexually abusing the victim and had said that the victim’s statement is 99 per cent untrue and insisted his actions were not sexually motivated.

Mr Nolan said Crossan maintains the position that nothing sexual happened and explained he had previously attended the Granada Institute following a report of abuse and he underwent a sex offender treatment programme.

In regards Crossan’s background, Mr Nolan explained he had a positive childhood experience.

He felt that he had no interest in teenage activities and did not pursue relationships.

Crossan was relieved of the priesthood in 1998 and he had been permitted to remain in the accommodation and was moved to Kildare in 1999, until his committal to prison in January 2021.

However, the house in Kildare has been sold and he has concerns for his future as he has no family or friends

Mr Nolan said he has no drug or alcohol addictions and had no mental health issues.

A risk assessment placed him in the medium risk of reoffending category while he was deemed unfit for community service due to his health issues.

Mr Nolan said he had pleaded guilty to the offences, had a medium risk of reoffending, had attended treatment and he is going to be on release with probation monitoring.

A governor’s report described him as an enhanced prisoner who presents no problem to staff or management, he has no disciplinary issues, goes to school in prison and works in horticulture.

Mr Nolan said he fully accepts that this has been a difficult situation for the victim and understands the victim had been greatly affected by his actions.

Judge John Aylmer said he would take some time to consider the case and adjourned the matter for sentencing until Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

Following today’s court sitting, the Diocese of Raphoe issued a statement apologising to the victim and appealing to any other victims to come forward.

Monsignor Kevin Gillespie, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Raphoe ​​​​​ said “Today in Letterkenny Circuit Court, Eamonn Crossan, a former priest of the Diocese of Raphoe, was convicted for crimes committed against a minor.

“It is with a profound sense of sorrow and awareness of the serious impact on the victim that I offer a sincere apology on behalf of the diocese to the victim and their family for the appalling breach of trust and for the dreadful crimes committed.

“I am grateful to the victim for their courage and strength in coming forward, and I hope and pray that the conviction today will in some way support them in their difficult journey of seeking justice and healing.

“The crimes committed by Eamonn Crossan have caused terrible damage to the lives of his victims and they bring shame upon our diocese.

"Crimes against children and the vulnerable are particularly reprehensible.

"This must continue to make us alert and proactive in ensuring good practices for a safe environment for all involved in the life of the Church.

“I encourage anyone who may have been abused, or is suspicious of any abuse, to report it to the state authorities, or the Diocesan Safeguarding Office immediately.

“To report a concern, or complaint of child abuse, either current or historical, please contact Margaret Northage, the Designated Liaison Person for the diocese, on: 086 2183 011.

"You are advised also to contact statutory authorities.”