A PRIEST with previous convictions, who had spent most of his career in West Cork, was jailed this week for sexual assault on a young girl.
The girl was aged around ten years old when she was picked up by the priest in his car after he said he was looking for directions in West Cork.
The indecent assault happened in the mid-1970s, the Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard this week. The priest confirmed a plea of guilty to the offence and was jailed for a year.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin made an order in relation to any publication of the case that John Calnan, 76, of The Presbytery, 35 Paul Street, Cork, could be identified, but that nothing leading to the identification of the victim could be published.
The injured party was ten or eleven years old at the time of the incident. The priest was in his thirties. The judge commented on the big disparity between the ages of the parties.
Detective Garda Maurice Shanley said gardai received a statement of complaint against Fr John Calnan of an indecent assault occurring on an unknown date between June 1 1974 and June 30 1977.
The injured party recalled in her statement that she was wearing a summer dress when the priest drove up beside her and asked for directions to a place nearby.
She sat into the passenger seat of the car and as he drove along, she remembered that he put his hand on her right thigh. ‘While he was waiting in the front garden of the house, at the front door, he asked if she was ticklish,’ the garda said.
He then caught her, with her back to him, and sexually assaulted her. She could not say how long this went on, and she could not say if he was aroused.
‘On the way back he put his left hand on her right thigh again and did not say anything,’ Det Garda Shanley said.
Siobhán Lankford, prosecution barrister, asked how the injured party, who is now in her forties, was getting on. The detective said: ‘She does not want to make a victim impact statement. She has had a lot of sleepless nights but she has come to terms with it as best she can. She has had counselling on a small scale.’
Det Garda Shanley said the accused had five previous convictions. He got eight years with the last three years suspended for attempting to rape a young girl and indecently assaulting her three times, and indecently assaulting a boy once.
In terms of the accused man’s background, the detective said he came from a very decent family, was ordained in 1964, serving most of the time in West Cork.
In 1992 he stopped ministering as a priest and went to the Gracewell clinic in Birmingham to deal with his offending behaviour.
Defence barrister John Devlin said: ‘He is out of ministry. He is now aged 76. He did go to Gracewell. He was very co-operative and made full admissions.
‘He is currently in Arbour Hill prison. He is in poor health and had a heart attack last year while in prison.
‘He has made good use of his time in prison and has involved himself in courses to deal with that type of offending.’
The judge said the plea of guilty by Calnan spared the injured party having to come to court and talk about what happened to her and he said the plea was also a total vindication of her.