"Sex mad" former Bucks priest jailed for child abuse

"Sex mad" former Bucks priest jailed for child abuse

Published by Dan Gooding at 1:07pm 14th March 2019. (Updated at 4:22pm 14th March 2019)

A former Buckinghamshire priest has been jailed for nine years, for sexually abusing children in the 1970s & 80s.

Father Francis McDermott, now 75, who was described by one victim as being "sex mad," was convicted by a jury at Aylesbury Crown Court of 18 charges.

  • McDermott sentenced today at Aylesbury Crown Court
  • Abused six victims in 70s & 80s, in Wycombe and Norwich
  • Former priest was questioned in 1990s & 2000s
  • Must be on sex offenders register for life

The retired priest, now of Atlantic Way, Westward Ho, Bideford, Devon, abused the children in his parishes in High Wycombe and Norwich and earlier in London when he was training for the priesthood.

Before his retirement, he was the priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bedgrove, Aylesbury.

Jailing Irish-born McDermott, Judge Catherine Tulk said:

"You abused the trust of those 6 children and their parents in a continued and callous fashion."

Before the sentence was passed, one woman victim, from Norwich, addressed McDermott, who sat motionless in the dock.

She told him:

"What you did to me and the other victims should never have happened."

She said the priest, who had bought her Osmond LPs, had abused her following the death of her father.

Looking straight at the former priest, she said:

"You put your hands down my knickers and snogged me - my first experience should not have been with a Roman Catholic Priest who was 17 years older.

"I would have been a different person if you had not abused me. I hate you. There is no one to blame but you."

aylesbury crown court
McDermott was sentenced at Aylesbury Crown Court

Another woman, from High Wycombe, told the judge:

"I naively felt I was complicit.

"It was an abusive manipulative relationship. McDermott groomed me, my parents and my siblings."

She said her family had been married and baptised by a "disgusting, despicable, lying monster."

He took her to the cinema to see Emmanuelle and The Exorcist - something the judge said was "an odd choice for a Catholic priest."

The woman said she had lost all faith in the Catholic Church.

She said that all the Catholic Church had done when the abuse was reported by her parents was to move him a few miles up the road.

One male victim, who is now in his late 50s, told the jury his family were friends with Francis McDermott when he was training to be a priest in North London in the early 1970s.

He said:

"Both my parents were Roman Catholic. My mum was of Irish descent and they both thought a lot of Frank. He was born in Ireland.

"My mother was very honoured that she had a future priest as a close friend of the family.

"I adored him. He was my best friend. I think I loved him more than I loved my parents. He had a lot of time for me. He took me to a lot of places."

The man said:

"He stayed over (at the family home in London) on a regular basis - twice a week.

"He stayed over in my bed. My parents would allow this and I thought it ok. It would be top and tail. One at top and one at bottom of the bed."

The man, who went on to live in Northampton, told the jury of 5 women and 7 men:

"I felt special at the time. I feel ashamed now. He was very charismatic. I thought a lot of him.

"I don't remember feeling guilt. I remember it was a great secret to be kept with a friend.

"He (Francis McDermott) had a very high sex drive - he was sex mad. He was always talking about it."

He said the priest had a locked metal cabinet which contained pornographic magazines. "I was 13 or 14."

Suddenly, around 2004, when the man was living in Northampton, he said he received a call from the Priest.

He said:

"I got a phone call. He said 'I have got to come and see you.'

"He sounded in a panic. I knew what it was going to be about. I started feeling bad about the abuse. There was a lot in the papers like the Sun and the Mirror about priests abusing children."

He said he drove to Argos and bought a dictaphone which he used to record the conversation in which Frank asked him to make a statement to support him after a complaint had been made against him by a woman.

McDermott was convicted of five counts of indecent assault on a boy under 14, one of gross indecency with a child under 14, one of indecent assault on a boy under 16, five of indecent assault on a girl under 14 and six of indecent assault on a girl under 16.

He was cleared of 8 charges: one of rape, five of indecent assault, one of gross indecency and one of buggery.

The judge told him one victim said everybody loved him.

"She said it was because you were different from other priests. A motif than runs on through all the witnesses.

"Everyone was blown away by you. You were a breath of fresh air - someone they had never seen before."

She said the priest had multiple occasions to admit his wrong doing when he had been questioned by the church in 1997 and by the police in 2002 and 2005 - something that aggravated the offences, adding that it was "an irony" that a central tenet of his religion was confession of sins.

He must register as a sex offender for life.

Detective Constable Catriona Cameron, of the Child Abuse Investigation Department in Aylesbury police station, said:

"Francis McDermott was a priest in the Catholic Church held in high regard and was a trusted member of the community. He used his position to befriend children for his own sexual gratification.

"The six victims in this case bravely came forward to report the abuse they suffered more than 40 years ago. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their courage and support of this investigation."

"They have been put through the trauma of a trial adding extra distress to them, and McDermott showed no remorse."

After McDermott's conviction last month, the Bishop of the Diocese of Northampton, the Right Reverend Peter Doyle, said he acknowledged the immense courage of the victims in coming forward. He said he would be willing to meet the victims and their families.

An NSPCC spokesperson said:

“McDermott used his trusted position as a priest to not only groom children but also their families in order to commit sickening abuse.

“He probably thought he had long got away with his vile crimes but the young people he manipulated and abused all those years ago have today helped put him behind bars.

“Their courage shows that it is never too late to report abuse and for victims who may have suffered for years in silence to come forward and get support.”

This week, one of the Pope's closest advisors Cardinal George Pell was jailed for 6 years for the sexual abuse of two 13-year-old choir boys in a cathedral in Melbourne, Australia in 1996.

Adult victims of non-recent abuse can call the NSPCC Helpline for advice and support on 0808 800 5000.

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